Seeing that amazing reception. Watching a defensive stand on 4th down. Maybe it’s simply rooting for someone on your fantasy roster to perform. We all have our reasons for watching the NFL. Unfortunately, controversy has become a staple of today’s NFL. From on-field brawls to doling out punishments and everything in-between, the league’s public relations department is constantly on their toes. Most of the action that the average fan cares about takes place between the hash marks. However, there’s an ongoing feud between the league and one player that has created divisiveness among the league’s ranks. That player is Colin Kaepernick.

The outspoken quarterback who led the San Francisco 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII in 2012 returned to headlines when the league announced that he would be participating in a workout. Kaepernick is a free agent QB who last played on New Year’s Day 2017 against the Seattle Seahawks. The Niners were a shell of themselves compared to the team that went to the Super Bowl two seasons prior. The Niners finished the season with a 1-10 record, and Kaep took plenty of heat for the team’s struggles under then-head coach Chip Kelly. Kaep’s outspoken protest regarding police brutality and racial inequality in America fanned the fire of discontent embroiling the country. It was no surprise that President Donald Trump weighed in with his two cents on Kaepernick’s kneeling during the the U.S. national anthem. The Kaepernick saga has dragged on years now, with little hope of reconciliation. 

That was until the two sides agreed to hold a one-man scouting combine, showcasing Kaepernick to all interested NFL teams. Well, at least that’s what many initially thought. The NFL has released a notice to all 32 teams to inform them of a workout for Kaepernick in Atlanta. The purpose of the workout was to show that 32-year-old pivot still had the skills to be an asset for one lucky NFL franchise. Kaepernick had free agent receivers to throw to, a script of plays to run and representatives from most of the league in attendance to see the resurrection of the star. However, there were a few things that felt off from the start regarding the workout. 

The first was that it was held on a Saturday. With most teams scheduled to play Sunday or Monday, the attendance of a GM or front office evaluator would be next to impossible. So instead of getting a face-to-face with decision makers, Kaep would have to settle for the scrutinizing eyes of scouts. And those receivers that were mentioned? Well they weren’t the same guys that Kaepernick worked with during his hiatus, so the QB was wary of not having his guys to throw to. In a sport where familiarity and routine reign supreme, their absence can go a long way in what amasses to a job interview. The NFL insisted on filming the workout for themselves, but it became apparent that Kaepernick wanted to have control. The idea being that Kaep wanted to have the ability to edit or not do so to the film from the workout. If all of this sounds odd, take a seat, because it only got more interesting.

The day of the workout — Saturday, November 16th, 2019 — Kaepernick’s camp called an audible. The QB opted to move the location of the workout at the last minute to a high school field. Some NFL personnel were completely thrown off by the decision, opting to fly back home instead of attending the workout at all. Among those who departed early was Hue Jackson, who was set to run the workout. There was enough interest from a handful of area scouts, though, who made the drive across Atlanta to attend. When he finally took the field, Kaepernick displayed the attributes that saw him become a star on the gridiron — his cannon arm let the world know he still has what it takes to be a competent QB in today’s NFL. 

While Kaepernick showed signs of being the same QB that came to stardom, it’s hard to determine through one workout if he can be anything other than a backup in the NFL. While he has been adamant about working out despite being “blackballed” by the NFL, there’s nothing that can replicate the speed, atmosphere and conditions of regular season NFL games. Observers came back with mixed opinions on Kaepernick’s workout. Based on what happened after the demonstration it doesn’t appear that the issue between player and the league have been resolved in any manner.

It’s disheartening to see both sides thump their chests in a show of superiority as opposed to working together. Both league and player are content to focus on what the other side is not doing rather than bridging the gap to cultivate a strong relationship. As pointed out in a previous post, Colin Kaepernick’s social justice campaign is larger than his career as a football star. For a player viewed as a backup option at best, this workout did little to sway opinions from one side to another. What this PR disaster illustrates is that not all wounds can be healed by time. 

Kaepernick’s philanthropic efforts have carried his stock even higher since his hiatus from football. Despite this, it doesn’t look like Colin Kaepernick will get the chance to put on the shoulder pads one more time in the league, which is a shame. The NFL just looks malicious in it continued spat with a single prospective player… especially given that the causes for Kaep’s protests are aimed at ending unfair treatment regarding racial inequality. 

The NFL is content with the status quo, leaving advocates of change disappointed once again. Someday, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, these two sides can come to terms. 

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