Colin Kaepernick

Raptors coach Nick Nurse wanted to honor Colin Kaepernick by kneeling

Raptors coach Nick Nurse wanted to honor Colin Kaepernick by kneeling

Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse made it a point to join his players and kneel during the national anthem as a protest against racial and social injustices.

Nurse has said in the past, and recently, how much he was inspired by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was the first athlete to kneel in peaceful protest.

"I saw this, kneeling for the anthem, as a tribute to him," Nurse said Saturday while being interviewed during the Raptors' win over the Los Angeles Lakers. "I think it has nothing to do with borders or flags or anthems or disrespecting anyone, military or governments. It's about attention to systemic racism and police brutality.

"That's why I wore his shoes tonight. I wanted to honor him."

[RELATED: Dr. Dre kneels with Kaepernick in 'defiant' Instagram post]

Nurse wore a pair of Nike Air Force 1 Colin Kaepernick shoes in honor of the former QB.

Kaepernick, 32, hasn't played in the NFL since 2016, the same season he began kneeling during the anthem. Athletes in all sports have been inspired by Kaepernick, using their voice more often when it comes to social and racial injustices, and have continued to find ways to peacefully protest.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Dr. Dre kneels with ex-49ers QB Colin Kaepernick in 'defiant' IG post

Dr. Dre kneels with ex-49ers QB Colin Kaepernick in 'defiant' IG post

Colin Kaepernick knows a thing or two about defiance.

After kneeling for the national anthem while playing for the 49ers in 2016, Kaepernick drew the scorn of a huge swath of Americans and football fans alike, including President of the United States Donald Trump, who called him a "son of a b---h."

Hip-hop icon and entertainer Dr. Dre, who starred in HBO's "The Defiant Ones" chronicling his career alongside prolific record executive Jimmy Iovine, shared an Instagram post on Sunday showing him taking a knee alongside Kaepernick, with a simple caption.

[RELATED: Kap's 49ers exit to be featured in new Disney docuseries]

Kaepernick's choice to kneel was misunderstood by many, and has kept him out of the NFL since he opted out of his 49ers contract in March of 2017. On NBC Sports Bay Area's "Race In America: Candid Conversations," former NFL star Charles Woodson spoke about how Kaepernick's protest made him reconsider the messaging behind the national anthem.

"Interestingly, then when Colin knelt, then all of a sudden," Woodson said. "When things happen you start doing a little research on things. So then you start researching the National Anthem and what it actually stood for when it first was written, and now you’re like, hold on, I can see his point now.  So now, you’re thinking to yourself, Okay, this is what Colin Kaepernick is kneeling for, I absolutely agree with that."

Kaepernick held a controversial workout in Atlanta that originally was endorsed by the NFL, but after changing locations he ended up having just a few teams show up. There has been rumored interest in the signal-caller from NFL clubs, but he remains a free agent.

Whether he's back in the NFL or not, Kaepernick isn't stopping trying to spread his message and fight against system racism and police brutality in the United States.

[RACE IN AMERICA: Listen to the latest episode]

Ex-49ers teammate explains why Colin Kaepernick fits in today's NFL

Ex-49ers teammate explains why Colin Kaepernick fits in today's NFL

Every NFL team is looking for the next Patrick Mahomes. Or the next Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson. 

The 49ers had exactly that in Colin Kaepernick, a game-changing dual-threat quarterback.

Seven-year pro Michael Thomas saw that firsthand back in 2012, the first year Kaepernick took over for Alex Smith as the 49ers' starting QB and led them to the Super Bowl. Thomas was a safety on San Francisco's practice squad that year before carving out a role with the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants. He even made the Pro Bowl in 2018. 

And Thomas finds it unexplainable how NFL teams aren't fighting to get Kaepernick's skill set on the field. 

"He’s the type of quarterback that today’s NFL is built for," Thomas, now with the Houston Texans, wrote as the guest writer in Peter King's "Football Morning in America" column for NBC Sports. "It’s built for the mobile quarterback, it’s built for the quarterback who can run but also throw. He’s that dual-threat option. He’s mobile, and he has a big arm that can hit the deep threat. He causes confusion for defenses if he gets into any kind of zone-read option. And obviously the RPO game is bigger than ever.

"Set aside for a second what the league would gain in terms of credibility by bringing him back. From a pure football standpoint, his style fits the league perfectly."

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Over his six-year career, five as a starter, Kaepernick totaled 12,271 passing yards and 72 touchdowns through the air. He also had 2,300 career rushing yards and another 13 TDs. 

But Kaepernick hasn't played in the NFL since 2016, the same year he first began sitting, then kneeling during the national anthem as a peaceful protest against racial and social injustices. Thomas, as a member of the Dolphins, played against Kaepernick that season, and the QB was dominant. 

The less-talented 49ers lost 31-24 in Miami, but Kaepernick's ability as a passer and runner were on full display. He completed 29 of 46 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns, and was intercepted once. He also rushed 10 times for 113 yards -- his last game with at least 100 on the ground. 

[RELATED: These Montana highlights show 1989 playoff dominance]

The 49ers were just 1-9 going into that game against the 6-4 Dolphins. Kaepernick was tackled at the 2-yard line to end it, falling just short of completely putting the team on his back in a rough road environment.

That also was nearly four years ago. There are no guarantees Kaepernick will play another game of football in his life. To Thomas, that's baffling, and understandably so.