Colin Kaepernick became the talk of the NFL world over the weekend after refusing to stand up during the national anthem during a San Francisco 49ers preseason game.
When asked why he didn’t stand, Kaepernick told reporters,”I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of colour.”
He added, “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 has insisted he will continue the protest (and said he has been doing so all preseason, though it was only recently noticed) until he sees change in the country. In the meantime, however, it’s unclear what’s in store for his NFL future.
Prior to Kaepernick’s pregame gesture, he’d been in a sharp decline on the field. After once looking like the future of the NFL, Kaepernick saw his passer rating drop the last three seasons in a row while his completion percentage never topped 61% and his interception percentage rose. After being benched to end the 2015 season, undergoing several offseason surgeries, and demanding a trade, Kaepernick’s grip on the quarterback job seemed tenuous to begin with.
On Sunday, Fox’s Jay Glazer reported that Kaepernick might not even make the 49ers roster, regardless of the media frenzy his actions have incited.
“Regardless of politics or not, he has a very, very big uphill battle to make this team. I’d be shocked if he’s on the 49ers by the time this season ends. It has nothing to do with political views whatsoever. He lost a ton of weight this offseason, had three surgeries, couldn’t work out, lost that double threat, that size-speed ratio. No political views, he just hasn’t been effective. He’s regressing as a player. I’d be shocked if he’s on this roster by the end of this year. He may not be on it in the next two weeks.”
The 49ers’ hiring of Chip Kelly as head coach was thought to be beneficial for Kaepernick, who could excel in Kelly’s offensive system. However, as Sports Illustrated’s Peter King notes, Kaepernick (in part because of injuries), has had an underwhelming preseason and has “shown Kelly little this summer.”
As King also notes, Kaepernick’s actions could cause a rift amongst his teammates. While Kaepernick said teammates have been supportive and he addressed them in a meeting Sunday to explain his stance, it could still affect on-field chemistry. If, say, an offensive lineman decides not to give his all while blocking for Kaepernick, it could create a nightmare scenario for the 49ers coaching staff.
Perhaps the bigger question, however, is if the 49ers are so discouraged by Kaepernick’s on-field regression that they would cut him. Not only would that leave them with the worst quarterback rotation in the NFL, it would also force them to swallow Kaepernick’s $11.9 million salary, which became guaranteed on April 1.
But, because of both Kaepernick’s unimpressive play and the focus on his political views, he may not be an appealing trade option for many teams. Perhaps the two other most quarterback-needy teams in the NFL, the Broncos and the Jets, have both found their men in Trevor Siemian and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Other quarterback-shallow teams, like the Rams, have rookie QBs waiting in the fold; giving up assets for Kaepernick may not be productive for them. When Kaepernick’s salary is thrown into the mix, there are few teams for which Kaepernick is a match.
As King wrote, nobody knows what the next chapter is. Kaepernick said he has “a few things” in the works right now and will continue his stance, but it’s unclear if he will continue to do so on the 49ers.
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