SportsPulse: USA TODAY’s Trysta Krick takes a look at all the quarterback battles around the NFL and how they are coming into focus. Or in the case of Jacksonville, not.
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There are rallies with threats of boycotts. National anthem protests — still. Statements, commentaries and despicable backlash. Debate and furor.
Colin Kaepernick, shunned by NFL teams from coast to coast, continues to hold our attention. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion linked to the quarterback-turned-symbol-of-purpose.
Yet a significant voice is missing as the Kaepernick movement rolls on: Kaepernick’s.
For all of the people who have spoken on his behalf — including fellow NFL players, civic activists, a group of African-American police in New York last weekend and Hank Aaron, the legendary home run king — I’m wanting to hear more from Kaepernick himself.
That’s not to suggest that he needed to be among speakers addressing the several hundred who congregated outside NFL headquarters Wednesday for what was dubbed a “United We Stand” rally. That wasn’t the time or place for Kaepernick to roll with a speech.
But at this point, it can’t hurt for him to speak publicly again.
Kaepernick surely doesn’t want to appear that he’s begging for a job, so there are those optics to consider. He acknowledged and thanked supporters Thursday on Twitter, but has not indicated how he sees the movement advancing from here.
Shamefully, no team has signed Kaepernick, a man in his prime with a Super Bowl appearance on his résumé. This is precisely what blackballing looks like against the backdrop of intolerant, tone-deaf message reception. He protested social inequality and police brutality that disproportionately victimizes African-Americans, but so many — undoubtedly including certain NFL owners and other establishment figures in the league — chose to overlook the reason why he exercised his American right to a peaceful gesture and despise him as unpatriotic.
Nobly, Kaepernick has let his actions speak volumes, consistently communicating through tweets and other social media postings. Wednesday, his foundation announced that he’d made another $100,000 donation, keeping with his pledge to give $1 million in 10 months to organizations that combat oppression and inequality. That’s fresh. Like previous gestures, the latest donation came with the transparency of an itemized account of how the monies would be used.
Kaepernick has also spent time this year hosting his Know Your Rights camps, for underprivileged youth in various cities, and visited Africa, where he provided aid to Somalian refugees and is building a school in Ghana.
And this is a role model some NFL teams won’t touch with a 10-foot pole?
“You know who needs to make a statement?” Harry Edwards, the renowned sociologist who’s been an advisor to Kaepernick, asked USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday. “The NFL. Kaepernick will be fine. The league is going to have the problem.”
I mean, Joe Flacco and Andrew Luck still haven’t made it to the practice field for the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts, respectively, while nursing injuries. Yet Kaepernick still can’t get a shot with teams which have such obvious needs. The Jacksonville Jaguars, meanwhile, are ready to go with Chad Henne to replace struggling Blake Bortles. They would be better off with Kaepernick.
SportsPulse: USA TODAY’s Jarrett Bell explains how Colin Kaepernick’s message continues to thrive through other players. Even as he remains a free agent.
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According to an ESPN report in the spring, Kaepernick expects to stand for the anthem this year. And just because he’s been quiet recently doesn’t mean he hasn’t been available to talk with teams mulling whether to sign him.
And not everyone agrees it’s incumbent upon him to talk further right now.
“He doesn’t need to say anything,” said Edwards. “It’s gotten so broad now. He can’t speak for the NAACP.”
Of course, Kaepernick’s prospects of landing a job should have nothing to do with whether or not he expounds on the movement he inspired. He repeatedly addressed his motivation last season. But given missteps that may have distorted his message — including failure to vote in the presidential election and wearing a shirt bearing the image of the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro — it might behoove Kaepernick to publicly build on the positives of his purpose.
Yet there are some parties within league circles, including members of the NFL Players Association and the Fritz Pollard Alliance, frustrated that they haven’t been able to connect with Kaepernick to better support his cause. Perhaps he will ultimately lean on those institutions. Maybe not.
In the meantime, it’s fair to wonder whether Kaepernick was ever prepared for his movement — and the ramifications — to blow up in the manner that it has.
“What started out organically needed to end strategically with a unifying message,” Cyrus Mehri, general counsel for the Fritz Pollard Alliance, told USA TODAY Sports.
Kaepernick’s ultimate strategy and silence, however, aren’t the primary issues. The big problem is still represented by NFL teams that have refused to offer him the opportunity that his talent deserves — which sadly sends another type of message that hardly aligns with the American ideals Kaepernick has urged the nation to live up to.
Follow NFL columnist Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.