ESPN host Stephen A. Smith slammed Colin Kaepernick for skipping a much-hyped NFL tryout near Atlanta on Saturday, saying, “He Don’t wanna play. He wants to be martyr.”
Smith shared his thoughts in a Twitter rant shortly after Kaepernick wrapped up his alternative workout at a local high school. The popular sports analyst noted that Kaepernick and his supporters have long complained that the quarterback is still an elite player who is being blackballed by the league because of his antiracist activism.
“Everybody talking about, ‘He wants to play football, he wants to play football, he’s ready to play, just give him a chance,'” said Smith. “This man wanted a chance.”
Smith, a cohost of “ESPN First Take,” went on to note that a lot of people took Kaepernick seriously and gave him an opportunity to prove he could still play after three years out of the league. He cited NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, rapper Jay Z, who reportedly pushed the NFL to hold the tryout, and the 25 teams who sent scouts to Georgia.
“And what does Colin Kaepernick do?” Smith said. “Three hours before the workout because of some issue with a liability waver, Colin Kaepernick wants to change the venue, Colin Kaepernick wants his own receivers, Colin Kaepernick wants to video things himself, Colin Kaepernick wants the media.”
Smith said the incident shows that Kaepernick doesn’t really care about football, but simply wants to play the victim and get attention.
“You see. You see,” he said sadly, shaking his finger. “He don’t wanna plays. He wants to be a martyr. But guess what? It ain’t working this time.”
Smith said “all of us” believed Kaepernick would have “showed out” at the tryout. He predicted that if Kaepernick had performed well, “he would’ve had a job inside of two weeks.”
However, Smith said, Kaepernick could not realistically expect to win a spot on an NFL roster by posting a video of himself playing at a high school online.
“You don’t wanna work. You just wanna make noise, and you wanna control the narrative,” Smith concluded. “It’s over. Colin Kaepernick’s aspiration in the NFL, for an NFL career. It’s over.”
He doesn't want to play. pic.twitter.com/ZuSI1IVW9r
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) November 17, 2019
Stephen A. Smith inflames the Colin Kaepernick culture war
Smith’s video quickly went viral on Twitter, where it has been viewed 3 million times.
In addition to the usual conservative takedowns of Kaepernick, Smith’s criticism was echoed by a small chorus of black commentators on Twitter.
Jason Whitlock, a Fox Sports 1 host, said Saturday: “In the real, world, Kap is seen as a lost soul with serious identity issues. Today was a final straw for objective, rational people. #Clownshow.”
Kap has a small, loud, militant following. They exist exclusively via social media. In the real world, Kap is seen as a lost soul with serious identity issues. Today was a final straw for objective, rational people. #Clownshow
— Jason Whitlock (@WhitlockJason) November 16, 2019
On Sunday, screenwriter Curtis Scoon mocked Kaepernick for showing up to Saturday’s workout wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with “Kunta Kinte,” the name of a fictional American slave made famous by the 1977 “Roots” TV miniseries. In a series of tweets, Scoon shared a photo of the quarterback with the white family that adopted and raised him.
“Colin ‘Kunta Kinte’ Kaepernick back when home was a ‘plantation’ and his family were ‘slave masters,'” he joked.
Colin “Kunta Kinte” Kaepernick back when home was a “plantation” and his family were “slave masters.” pic.twitter.com/CwE0qgzKj1
— Curtis Scoon (@CurtisScoon) November 17, 2019
However, Smith also faced racially charged backlash. Carolina Panthers safety and Kaepernick’s friend Eric Reed accused him of “Tap dancing for the NFL.”
.@stephenasmith Tap dancing for the NFL like ⬇️. Damn straight Colin wants to control the narrative! He supposed to trust the organization that blackballed him and has done absolutely nothing in good faith??? Born on Tuesday, just not last Tuesday. https://t.co/EKztmcrDbu pic.twitter.com/gz0xnDe10e
— Eric Reid (@E_Reid35) November 17, 2019
Meanwhile, supporters of Kaepernick and his social justice activism praised the quarterback for once again defying the NFL.
NFL columnist Mike Freeman said on Twitter Saturday that Kaepernick’s workout proved once and for all that teams are discriminating again him.
“Bottom line with Kaepernick’s workout is this: it demonstrated why there isn’t, never was, and never will be a FOOTBALL reason for him to be out of the NFL. Not one,” Freeman said.
“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,” added director Ava DuVernay.
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, saying it had made considerable effort to work cooperatively with Kaepernick’s representatives.
“Colin’s decision has no effect on his status in the league. He remains an unrestricted free agent eligible to sign with any club,” the statement added.
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.”
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.
(Reuters contributed to this report)