If Colin Kaepernick’s latest public comments are any indication, the NFL is nowhere near his radar anymore.
About an hour before the Buffalo Bills and Houston Texans kicked off on Saturday, Kaepernick tweeted thoughts apparently in connection with the United States’ recent drone strike that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in Iraq.
“There is nothing new about American terrorist attacks against Black and Brown people for the expansion of American imperialism,” Kaepernick wrote. “America has always sanctioned and besieged Black and Brown bodies both at home and abroad. America militarism is the weapon wielded by American imperialism, to enforce its policing and plundering of the non white world.”
Yeah, that’s a long way from commenting on the San Francisco 49ers’ next opponent.
Kaepernick hasn’t played in the league since 2016, the season he began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality. He nonetheless remains one of the best-known — or notorious, depending on your point of view — NFL players. A Kaepernick jersey created by Nike sold out in a matter of hours early last year, and a sold-out Kaepernick-branded shoe has contributed to Nike’s revenue growth since signing Kaepernick as a client.
Despite the power of his name, though, Kaepernick has kept a relatively low public profile, appearing at occasional charity events or offering donations to certain social justice causes but making few public comments.
Kaepernick’s last dance with the NFL?
Kaepernick last surfaced in November when the NFL surprised both its franchises and Kaepernick himself with a hastily called, rapidly assembled workout in Atlanta. Those plans went sideways when the NFL insisted on what Kaepernick’s team deemed an overly restrictive contract. Kaepernick scuttled the NFL-backed workout and held one of his own in front of national media.
Kaepernick made it clear during his November workout that he wasn’t going to toe the line and make anyone comfortable just to land a job. “We have nothing to hide,” he said during a short soliloquy to the media, where he took no questions. “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.”
The performance he put on that afternoon at an Atlanta high school was confident but limited, and no NFL teams called to inquire about his services. A few days after the workout, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell indicated that the league has “moved on” from Kaepernick.
From an activism standpoint, that’s probably for the best. If he chooses to use it, Kaepernick has the potential platform to influence millions as a pariah, a platform he’d lose if he were to go hold a clipboard and play mop-up duty in Miami.
Like his comments about NFL owners “running from the truth,” Kaepernick’s tweets excoriating “American imperialism” and charging the United States with conducting “terrorist acts” aren’t designed to change minds or promote dialogue. They’re there to advance a worldview and stake out territory, damn the consequences. And both tweets drew thousands of replies, many sharply criticizing Kaepernick and framing the issue in far different terms than Kaepernick’s “American imperialism.”
Kaepernick’s days as a football player are apparently done. But his time as a flame-throwing political activist might just be getting started.
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