Colin Kaepernick changed the location of his long-awaited National Football League tryout at the last minute so that he could perform for the media.
However, the move cost Kaepernick the interest of most of the teams that planned to attend the event on Saturday. Representatives from at least 25 of the NFL’s 32 teams had been scheduled to attend the workout. But only a few made it to the new location.
After the workout at an Atlanta-area high school, Kaepernick told assembled reporters that he is ready to play “anywhere” in the league.
“I’ve been ready for three years. I’ve been denied for three years,” said the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who made headlines by kneeling at games during the U.S. anthem to protest against racial injustice.
He has said teams would not sign him because they wanted to distance themselves from the protests, which President Donald Trump criticized as unpatriotic and disrespectful.
“So we’re waiting for the 32 owners, 32 teams and [league commissioner] Roger Goodell to stop running,” the 32-year-old said in videotaped remarks to reporters. “Stop running from the truth, stop running from the people.
Colin Kaepernick made a 90 second statement before leaving pic.twitter.com/QlH2RTnLp5
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) November 16, 2019
The Colin Kaerpnick tryout controvesry
The NFL had arranged the tryout at the Atlanta Falcons training facility, but the quarterback’s representatives moved the workout to the high school stadium. Kaepernick said it was done so media could be present.
The quarterback showed up to the workout in a T-shirt emblazoned with “Kunta Kinte,” the name of a fictional American slave made famous by the 1977 “Roots” TV miniseries.
Colin Kaepernick wears a Kunta Kinte t-shirt as he arrives for his NFL workout in Atlanta.
— Darren M. Haynes (@DarrenMHaynes) November 16, 2019
Live stream video of the workout showed Kaepernick making a variety of throws to a group of receivers to applause from on-lookers.
His arm talent remains “elite” and is the same as when he came out of college, ESPN reported an NFL executive commenting after the workout, adding Kaepernick threw the ball well.
Online viewers also said he has a future in the NFL.
“He still has lower third to mid tier starter ability,” said one viewer on Twitter. “If media circle didn’t follow, someone would have him as a backup at minimum already.”
Another said, “So far, Kaepernick looks like Kaepernick. Outstanding velocity, everything on a rope, can make any throw. Questions teams will have about different arcs and speeds, performance when hurried, and progression-reading — the questions I’d have – can’t really be answered here.”
Social justice activists, like director Ava DuVernay, criticized the NFL for allegedly passing on Kapernick’s talent because of his politics.
His arm. And his conscience. And his voice. If they want the arm, they have to take the rest. They don’t want that. They want silence and profits. https://t.co/a0W0YimpOE
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) November 16, 2019
However, The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh was among many conservatives who said Kaepernick was clearly not serious about an NFL return. He added that the tryout drama likely underlined to teams that Kaepernick is not worth the headache.
Kaepernick is a 32 year old who hasn’t played in 3 years and wasn’t great even before he left. If you sign him, you’ll have to deal with his publicity stunts, backlash from fans, and if you cut him or bench him he’ll accuse you of racism. Why would any team sign up for that?
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) November 17, 2019
The NFL says it’s ‘disappointed’
Kaepernick’s representatives moved the workout after accusing the NFL of not acting in a forthright manner in organizing the workout.
“From the outset, Mr. Kaepernick requested a legitimate process and from the outset the NFL league office has not provided one,” they said in a statement.
“Most recently, the NFL has demanded that as a precondition to the workout, Mr. Kaepernick sign an unusual liability waiver that addresses employment-related issues and rejected the standard liability waiver from physical injury proposed by Mr. Kaepernick’s representatives.”
Kaepernick also had requested all media be allowed into the workout to observe and film it, but the NFL denied the request, the statement said.
The NFL said it was informed of Kaepernick’s decision 30 minutes before the workout was to begin.
“We are disappointed that Colin did not appear for his workout,” the league said in a statement, adding it had made considerable effort to work cooperatively with Kaepernick’s representatives.
Before the move, both protesters and supporters had waited for Kaepernick outside the Falcons’ facility.
One protester, waving a U.S. flag, held a sign that said “Colin Kaepernick un-American Loser. Get out of my town.”
Colin Kaepernick MOVES his workout at the last minute because the NFL refused to let the media in: Anthem kneeler avoids protester calling him an 'un-American loser' as he decides to change location to a local high school pic.twitter.com/HK6hfH750l
— spacewoman reporter (@SpacewomanR) November 16, 2019
Supporters included one follower wearing a Kaepernick jersey and displaying a sign that read “I’m with Kap.”
Taking a knee
Among the first players to kneel during the pregame U.S. national anthem in protest against extrajudicial killings of black people by police, Kaepernick has been unable to find a team to sign him since 2017.
A second-round draft choice in 2011, he played with the 49ers for six seasons, leading them to the 2013 Super Bowl and the National Football Conference title game the next season.
During the third preseason game in 2016 he began sitting during the U.S. anthem.
The following week and during regular season, Kaepernick began kneeling as protest against social injustice.
He became a free agent after the 2016 season and remains unsigned.
Kaepernick filed a collusion grievance against NFL owners in October 2017 after going unsigned as a free agent. The two sides resolved the grievance in February under a confidentiality agreement.
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; editing by Ed Osmond, Nick Zieminski and Daniel Wallis; Pluralist contributed to this report)