/Opinion: If Colin Kaepernick actually wants to play in NFL again, Saturday was a setback
Opinion: If Colin Kaepernick actually wants to play in NFL again, Saturday was a setback

Opinion: If Colin Kaepernick actually wants to play in NFL again, Saturday was a setback


RIVERDALE, Ga. — Nothing about the way Saturday unfolded should make you believe Colin Kaepernick will play in the NFL again. Not the way his opportunity to work out for NFL teams appeared out of thin air earlier this week, nor the way it fell apart Saturday afternoon amid dueling accusations and simmering acrimony.
As hastily and inexplicably as it was arranged, it could have been a chance for 20-plus NFL scouts to see Kaepernick throw — even if that’s all it was. Instead, it became another Nike commercial, another day for Kaepernick to bolster his credentials as a cultural icon, another day for him to embarrass NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
At a high school just south of Atlanta’s airport — and about 60 miles from where his original workout at the Atlanta Falcons’ facility was scheduled to take place — Kaepernick instead threw some footballs in front of just eight NFL scouts, a few dozen media members and about 200 fans lining the fence in what seemed like more of a spectacle than a real workout.
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And when it was over, after spending nearly half an hour signing autographs and thanking his supporters, Kaepernick delivered a searing indictment of the NFL, which has wanted no part of him since he first kneeled for the national anthem in protest of police brutality.
“I’ve been ready for three years, I’ve been denied for three years,” he said. “We all know why I came out here and showed it today in front of everybody. We have nothing to hide. So we’re waiting for the 32 owners, the 32 teams, Roger Goodell, all of them to stop running. Stop running from the truth, stop running from the people.”
But as passionately and eloquently as that message was delivered, it’s hard to see Saturday as anything but a setback if the goal was to actually play in the NFL again.
“There was an ulterior motive behind it and I think we’re all seeing that right now,” said Kaepernick’s agent, Jeff Nalley.
From Kaepernick’s side, there were suspicions from the start.
Why did the NFL hastily arrange this workout on a Saturday when league personnel are generally out scouting college games? Why had the league tipped off some reporters that this was happening, as Nalley alleged, several days before the NFL actually reached out to Kaepernick?
Moreover, why did the league insist that the workout would be closed to the media and that Kaepernick wouldn’t be able to film it himself to make sure the footage that got disseminated to teams wasn’t edited? And why did the league want him to sign a six-page waiver that included, among other things, a clause clearing the NFL of potential litigation if no team signed him after this workout?
“This was about something other than a workout,” Nalley said. “It didn’t smell right.”
Colin Kaepernick visits with fans following Saturday's workout.
As Nalley pointed out over and over, no team had requested this workout. In fact, there hasn’t been any interest at all in Kaepernick over the last couple years. So what motive would the NFL have to try to make this happen now?
“Who knows,” Nalley said. “I think eventually we’ll find out. People have speculated, is it (Collective Bargaining Agreement)-related? Is it contract negotiation related? I’m not really sure. I think today people were speculating it was legally related, trying to protect themselves against possible litigation but that’s not what I do. But the bottom line is Colin had to be protected this week with all the crazy stuff going on.”
And that protection involved a backup plan. It was clear right away the decision to shift the workout to Charles Drew High School didn’t happen in the span of an hour or two. By the time media members made it from the Falcons’ facility in Flowery Branch, Ga., there were already private security guards lining the perimeter of the football stadium and camera crews from Kaepernick’s team setting up.

In the end, no matter the reservations he had about what the NFL was up to, Kaepernick wanted to do the workout. So when the NFL didn’t agree to his conditions, that’s exactly what he did.
“He had questions like all of us do, but he’s a competitor and he’s been telling everyone he’s been in shape for three years,” Nalley said. “That’s why he wanted to do it in front of the media so everyone could see.”
But even if Kaepernick’s suspicions were well-founded, it’s hard to see how anything that happened Saturday gets him closer to actually playing in the NFL.
We know how this will play out. Kaepernick critics will say that the NFL, whatever its motives, offered him a chance to impress teams in a formal, organized setting and instead he wasted their time by pulling the plug at the 11th hour. They’ll say this proves he’s more interested in building his image as a martyr and Nike pitch man than actually playing football. They’ll say that Kaepernick once again made himself a spectacle, which is not what teams want in a backup quarterback.
At the same time, because he once again showed up the NFL and turned what should have been a low-profile workout into a cause, Kaepernick’s fans will only become more devoted and more aggrieved that he hasn’t gotten a legitimate chance. Round and round we go.
“Y’all saw him, he looked good, hopefully he gets signed,” Nalley said. “That’s up to them.”
Saturday was a great moment for Kaepernick the celebrity and Kaepernick the activist. Maybe it was never meant to be a real moment for Kaepernick the football player, so his ongoing battle with the NFL remains as it ever was. But if the NFL’s goal was to marginalize him even further, it backfired in one sense. By taking the narrative away from the NFL, Kaepernick only got bigger.
Colin Kaepernick worked out on Saturday at Charles Drew High School in Riverdale, Georgia.
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