Pete Carroll praised former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's 2016 protest of police brutality against African Americans and institutional racism earlier this week, nearly three years after Carroll's Seattle Seahawks opted not to sign Kaepernick as a free agent and over two after they reportedly postponed a workout because Kaepernick wouldn't commit to no longer kneeling during the playing of the national anthem.
"I think that there was a moment in time that a young man captured," Carroll told Warriors coach Steve Kerr and San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich on Tuesday on The Ringer's "Flying Coach" podcast (via ESPN's Nick Friedell). "He took a stand on something, figuratively took a knee, but he stood up for something he believed in -- and what an extraordinary moment it was that he was willing to take. ... But what happened from the process is it elevated awareness from people that just took everything away from what the statement was all about, and it just got tugged and pulled and ripped apart.
"And the whole mission of what the statement was, such a beautiful ... it's still the statement that we're making right today. We're not protecting our people. We're not looking after one another. We're not making the right choices. We're not following the right process to bring people to justice when actions are taken. So I think it was a big sacrifice in the sense that a young man makes, but those are the courageous moments that some guys take. And we owe a tremendous amount to him for sure."
Kaepernick was a free agent in 2017 following a season in which he kneeled during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" before games as part of his protest. He opted out of his contract with the 49ers after the team's new regime, led by general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan, told Kaepernick he would be released if he didn't. Kaepernick visited the Seahawks in May, but Seattle opted not to sign him.
“He’s a starter in this league,” Carroll said on June 2 (H/T Andre Vergara). “We have a starter (Russell Wilson), but he is a starter in this league and I can’t imagine somebody won’t give him a chance to play.”
Neither the Seahawks, nor any other team, did that season or in the two that followed. Kaepernick was set to visit with the Seahawks in April 2018, but Seattle didn't bring the QB in for a workout after he didn't reveal whether he would continue to kneel during the national anthem, according to multiple reports that Carroll later said were "blown up." The 32-year-old quarterback sued the NFL for collusion later that year as he remained unsigned, settling it last February.
Carroll said the Seahawks planned to attend Kaepernick's NFL-arranged workout at the Atlanta Falcons' last November, but they were unable to send a scout after Kaepernick moved the location to a high school outside of Atlanta when the NFL barred media access and asked him to sign a waiver Kaepernick's lawyers deemed unusual.
“I’m disappointed. We had planned to be at that workout,” Carroll said on Nov. 19 (H/T Tacoma News Tribune's Gregg Bell). “It got changed around and we couldn’t work with it. Unfortunately, we sent somebody but couldn’t stay with the changes that happened. We missed it."
Kaepernick's protest has received renewed attention following the death of 46-year-old George Floyd, an African American man, in Minneapolis police custody last Monday. Fired police officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes as he pleaded that he couldn't breathe, and now faces charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. Three other officers at the scene face charges of aiding and abetting murder.
Floyd's death, occurring within months of two white men shooting and killing 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery during a jog in his Georgia neighborhood and Louisville police's fatal shooting of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor in her home, set off worldwide protests and demonstrations of the same issues Kaepernick highlighted nearly four years ago.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media on Aug. 29, 2016 after sitting during the national anthem before a preseason game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street, and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Kaepernick, after consulting with Green Beret and former Seahawk Nate Boyer, would ultimately kneel during the anthem.
Seahawks starting quarterback Russell Wilson told reporters Wednesday on a video conference that it was a question for Carroll if the Seahawks missed an opportunity to advance Kaepernick's message by signing him, but said Kaepernick "could definitely be on our roster for sure."
Carroll, meanwhile, said Tuesday on "Flying Coach" that he thinks he can do more to advance causes of racial equality after seeing protests unfold around the world in the last week.
"We have to go beyond and act and take the action, and it's going to be a challenge for people," Carroll said. "I feel frustrated I'm not doing enough. I'm not on it enough. I can't get active enough to create the change. I think we need to make progress, not just change."
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