- LeBron James told ESPN he believes the free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick is being blackballed by NFL owners.
- James backed up his claim by citing poor quarterback play around the league, saying Kaepernick is “better than a lot of those guys.”
- Kaepernick filed a collusion grievance against the league last month.
LeBron James became the latest athlete to comment on Colin Kaepernick’s continued unemployment and grievance with the NFL, saying he believes the quarterback is being blackballed by the league’s owners.
While James conceded that he doesn’t understand football on a professional level, he said it doesn’t take an expert to see that Kaepernick is better than a number of quarterbacks who have started games this year.
“I love football, but I’m not part of the NFL. I don’t represent the NFL. I don’t know their rules and regulations,” James said, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “But I do know Kap is getting a wrong doing, I do know that. Just watching, he’s an NFL player. He’s an NFL player and you see all these other quarterbacks out there and players out there that get all these second and third chances that are nowhere near as talented as him. It just feels like he’s been blackballed out of the NFL.”
While Kaepernick had a solid year in 2016 — 16 touchdown passes with a passer rating of 90.7 — he learned that the San Francisco 49ers had no plans to keep him around and became a free agent at the end of the season. Since that time, teams have started unheralded signal callers like Nathan Peterman, Scott Tolzien, Brett Hundley, and Mike Glennon, yet Kaepernick remains a free agent.
Many feel that the league’s owners have been ignoring Kaepernick due to his protests during the national anthem, which began at the start of last season. The California native and his supporters have maintained that the protests are about police brutality and racial inequality, but many see them as a sign of disrespect to the US.
James told McMenamin that he agrees with Kaepernick’s supporters, saying the discrepancy in skill is too great to ignore.
“The only reason I could say he’s not on a team is because the way he took a knee. That’s the only reason,” he said. “I watch football every Sunday, every Thursday, every Monday night. I see all these quarterbacks — first-string, second-team, third-team quarterbacks — that play sometimes when the starter gets hurt or are starters that play. Kap is better than a lot of those guys. Let’s just be honest.”
As a result of his continued unemployment, Kaepernick filed a grievance last month accusing NFL owners of collusion. His lawyer, Mark Geragos, recently expressed his confidence in the case.
League commissioner Roger Goodell, meanwhile, has tried to downplay the rumours of blackballing. In July, he told reporters that free agent signings “are independent decisions that clubs make,” according to JJ Conrad of NJ.com.
Relations between Kaepernick and the NFL remain frosty. Earlier this month, Kaepernick agreed to a one-on-one meeting with Goodell, but backed out after his request for an independent mediator was rejected.
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