- Programming note: Watch "Race in America: A Candid Conversation" on Wednesday, April 27 at 5 p.m. and approximately 11 p.m on NBC Sports Bay Area.
Colin Kaepernick is touring the land, an unemployed quarterback in search of an NFL opportunity. The man who led the 49ers to a Super Bowl in 2013 so badly wants a chance that he is resorting to casting calls for receivers willing to join his mobile open tryouts.
Out of the NFL since 2016 after standing on humanitarian principle, Kaepernick asks nothing except an invitation to return.
“I know I have to find my way back in,” he said on a recent “I Am An Athlete” podcast. “If I have to come in as a backup, that's fine.”
Meanwhile, the blackballing remains in effect, with NFL team owners steadfast in silent resistance.
There is one exception: Mark Davis, who owns both the Las Vegas Raiders and the WNBA Las Vegas Aces.
Much like his father, late football legend Al Davis, who often marched solo as his NFL brethren stayed in formation, Mark Davis isn’t linking arms with his fellow owners, who have formed a wall of solidarity against Kaepernick’s return.
In an episode of “Race in America: A Candid Conversation,” premiering Wednesday after Golden State Warriors programming on NBC Sports Bay Area, Davis expressed his view of Kaepernick’s quest.
“I believe in Colin Kaepernick,” he said. “He deserves every chance in the world to become a quarterback in the National Football League. I still stand by it. If our coaches and general manager want to bring him in or want him to be the quarterback on this team, I would welcome him with open arms.”
The Raiders have a new general manager, Dave Ziegler, and a new head coach, Josh McDaniels, both of whom was pulled from the New England Patriots in January. They exhibited their belief in Derek Carr, the team’s starting quarterback since his rookie season in 2014, by signing him this month to a three-year, $121.5 contract extension that runs through the 2025 season.
Kaepernick’s plea for a chance to compete for even a backup role in the NFL has drawn no reaction from the Raiders, whose current pool of potential backups include career backups Nick Mullens and Garrett Gilbert – both of whom have considerably thinner resumés.
Roster decisions in the NFL generally are the responsibility of the player personnel wing, with the GM at the top and the head coach offering input.
In the case of Kaepernick, now 34, there is plenty of evidence supporting the belief that owners are behind the blackballing, notably the NFL deciding in 2019 to pay undisclosed millions to Kaepernick and former 49ers teammate Eric Reid, both of whom filed lawsuits alleging collusion among the league’s 32 owners.
Three years later, neither Kaepernick nor Reid is employed by an NFL team. Neither has received an invitation to a training camp.
In his time away from the league, Kaepernick has received numerous high-profile honors – Harvard University, the ACLU and Amnesty International, to name three – and become a global symbol for peacefully shining a light on racial and socioeconomic injustice.
Davis compares Kaepernick to Tommie Smith, the great sprinter who set a 200-meter record in winning a gold medal in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos were banished from The Games after raising fisted gloves during the medal ceremony to demonstrate the fight against oppression.
Smith and Carlos were cast aside by the American power structure. Both paid a steep price, socially and financially, for their decision to highlight inequality in their home country.
“In the same vein, Colin Kaepernick has sacrificed a lot of the things that he could have been doing in his life to get a message across about police violence and equity and inclusion in America,” Davis said. “I stand by that.”
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Davis and Smith now collaborate on programs designed to promote diversity and inclusion, through the lens of the Raiders and the WNBA Aces, also owned by Davis.
The opportunity is there for those in position to right with Kaepernick the wrongs inflicted upon Smith and Carlos and any other athlete daring to speak up on behalf of those who lack the platform they have earned.
“I think Colin is a very misunderstood human being,” Davis said. “I’ve gotten a chance to talk to him. I never really knew Colin, and I didn’t understand him. I didn’t understand the kneeling, what that meant initially. Over time, I have learned a little bit more about it.
“I understand where he was coming from. He’s got a message for society as a whole.”
A message that NFL owners, most of them, don’t care to hear or have anywhere near their teams.