49ers

Kap's NFL absence still notable despite Goodell's claims

49ers

Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick isn't on an NFL roster for the start of a fourth consecutive season.

Just over four years after he first sat in uniform during the national anthem in protest of police brutality against African Americans and institutional racism, Kaepernick has not been signed to any of the league's 53-man rosters.

Just shy of two weeks after NBA, WNBA, MLB, MLS, and NHL games were postponed in protest of another high-profile police shooting of a Black man, Kaepernick isn't on a 16-man practice squad, either.

When NBC Sports' Peter King asked NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Friday if he was "dispirited" that Kaepernick still is unsigned, Goodell demurred.

“Those are club decisions,” Goodell told King for his "Football Morning in America" column. “I’ve encouraged teams to evaluate that and sign him if they feel that’s the case. I’m happy if Kap gets an opportunity but that’s, you know ...Teams don’t usually ask me for advice on football hires.”

Kaepernick has not been signed since opting out of his contract with the 49ers ahead of the 2017 season, when incoming general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan told Kaepernick he'd be released otherwise. The QB settled a collusion lawsuit with the NFL last February, and he pulled out of an NFL-organized workout last November after the league barred access to media and he was asked to sign a liability waiver his lawyers considered "unusual."

 

Kaepernick, 32, faced criticism from Goodell, owners and politicians for kneeling during "The Star-Spangled Banner" before games in 2016. His protest received renewed attention earlier this year after George Floyd, a Black man, died in police custody on Memorial Day after a since-fired white officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes.

Floyd's death occured within months of the Louisville police shooting of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman, and Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, was shot and killed while jogging in his Georgia neighborhood, sparking global outrage and protests as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic disproportionately affected people of color. With renewed attention on Kaepernick's protest as a result, high-ranking figures in the NFL publicly seemed to open the door for Kaepernick's return to the league.

Goodell said in June the NFL was wrong for not listening to protesting players (without mentioning Kaepernick), adding he would "welcome" a team signing Kaepernick. Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said an NFL team called him about Kaepernick, since the QB had twice visited Seattle during his time as a free agent. Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said Kaepernick was on their workout list.

But a source "with knowledge of the situation" told Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio there was "fake" interest in Kaepernick following Floyd's death.

"There has been zero interest expressed as to Kaepernick 'in months,' " Florio wrote Monday.

On Aug. 23, police in Kenosha, Wisconsin shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, seven times in the back. The Milwaukee Bucks refused to play against the Orlando Magic in protest of the shooting on Aug. 26, almost three months after Floyd's death and four years to the day after Kaepernick first protested in a 49ers uniform, leading to postponed games and even canceled NFL practices.

Few of his peers joined Kaepernick during his 2016 protest, but NFL players have become increasingly outspoken since. The league committed in June to spend $250 million on initiatives to combat systemic racism.

Goodell told King he doesn't think that Kaepernick remaining out of the league "mars" the NFL's own work.

“No,” Goodell said Friday. “How could it, when our players are out and for the last several years, players and teams are making important changes in their community with important programs?”

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Despite the commissioner's insistence, Kaepernick's absence at the start of this season will be conspicuous. Players and coaches have publicly stated their intentions to protest during the anthem, and the league will have social-justice messages in the end zones in Week 1.

It's hard to imagine any of that happening had Kaepernick not started the conversation four years ago. But for the fourth straight season, it appears he won't have a chance to contribute to it as an active NFL quarterback.