NATIVIDAD: NFL, Kaepernick ‘workout’ doesn’t seem genuine
Have you ever been to a job interview that felt like a waste of time? You’re sitting there dressed to the nines really trying to do your best, but the hiring manager is barely even looking at you. He or she seemingly goes through the motions of a meeting that is evidently more an obligation than an actual opportunity. They monotonously ask you a series of questions, and as you answer they take no notes, or express any niceties, and you’re done in a half hour. Kicked to the curb, left with a limp handshake and a “Thanks for fulfilling the company’s interview quota” glare as you depart.
Colin Kaepernick, this is your future.
After being on a professional football hiatus for the past three years, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback will participate in an open workout for National Football League teams Saturday at the Atlanta Falcon’s practice facility. The workout will be closed to the public and media, and is an opportunity for Kaepernick to display his readiness to play again.
While the workout may seem to some as an olive branch extended by the NFL toward Kaepernick, it reeks of publicity more so than a legitimate shot. And I think we know why.
For anyone who has been in a coma for the past three years, during the 2016 NFL season, Kaepernick began to kneel rather than stand during the national anthem before games as a protest against police brutality and racial injustice. The act has been replicated by other players from other sports to bring awareness to the issue. The protest, though, has become quite polarizing, with some supporting the quarterback for using his public platform to highlight a valid contemporary problem, and others viewing the act as disrespect to the military and the country.
Following the 2016 season, Kaepernick declined his contract option with the 49ers to test out the free agent market. He has not suited up for an NFL team since. This past February, Kaepernick and his ex-teammate Eric Reid, settled a lawsuit that accused the NFL of colluding to prevent Kaepernick from securing a contract as a free agent. The two players reportedly were paid less than $10 million.
On Tuesday, Kaepernick and his representatives were contacted by the league and were told a memo was going out to all 32 NFL teams to invite them to a private workout with the former quarterback. ESPN reports that sources close to the NFL’s thinking said “several teams have been in contact with the league office to ask about Kaepernick’s status, and the league has grown tired of telling teams they’re free to find out for themselves.”
While Kaepernick has not been told specifically which teams will be attending, he told NBC News “I’ve been in shape and ready for this for 3 years, can’t wait to see the head coaches and GMs on Saturday.” ESPN sources also said potentially interested teams that have contacted the league about interest in Kaepernick “haven’t wanted to bring in Kaepernick for visits or workouts the way they routinely do on Tuesdays during the season, so the league is organizing Saturday’s workout…”
I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy that.
Why would teams want the workout to be on a Saturday, when they are prepping for games scheduled for the following day? Also, if the league has been contacted by teams in the past, why didn’t they do this workout in the offseason when teams are still attempting to solidify their rosters, instead of in the middle of the season? As of Thursday, 11 teams have confirmed they will be attending the workout, but video of the event will be provided to teams that are not able to make it out.
“Hello, is Brian Hamilton there?… I’m calling to apply for that position that The Union is NOT hiring for… Also, Can we do this over Skype?… Yea, thanks.”
This all reeks of free publicity for the league, in an attempt to appeal to a disenfranchised fanbase that felt the league blackballed the quarterback for his protests. Or maybe it’s a promise the league made to rapper Jay-Z for partnering with the NFL to assist in key events like the Super Bowl halftime show, and issues around social change. Maybe it’s just an opportunity for the league and its owners to bring back a polarizing issue that everyone and their mama has a take on. Get your casual and nonexistent NFL viewers back and talking about football again, while also riling up your base, whichever side of the debate they land on. Any way to capitalize off of division right?
Click bait publicity.
It’s hard to know for sure the motivations of the NFL, but go online and you can already see the social media storm of keyboard warriors giving their two cents on why Kaepernick does or doesn’t deserve another opportunity to play in the NFL. This topic has been debated to death, so I’m not going to attempt to add anything new to this dialogue. Or lack there of.
I personally do hope the guy gets a fair shake, and gets picked up by a team. I still remember that this is the same man that led the closest thing we have to a hometown NFL team to the super bowl just seven years ago, and just a few yards away from winning (he should have just ran that ball in!).
He’s also the same person who spends his time organizing local communities and advocating for youth around the country, donating more than $1 million to charities working on behalf of social justice. In a time when athletes are being excused and still allowed to play after committing violent acts such as domestic abuse and sexual assault, Kaepernick has done much more than just kneel for the cause he has brought attention to, and I think that is commendable.
So despite the circus that is this publicity stunt, on Saturday, I hope he gets those “interviewers” to look up and pay attention. I hope he gets that firm handshake and look of reassurance. I hope he gets the job.
Ivan Natividad is a columnist who contributes to The Union regularly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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