We are two weeks away from the NFL season and one of the biggest story lines heading into 2017-18 is Colin Kaepernick and his employment status and on Wednesday, arguably the best quarterback in the NFL chimed in on the issue.
Aaron Rodgers says he thinks there’s no question about why Colin Kaepernick is not on an NFL roster and it has little to do with his football-playing ability and everything to do with his decision to protest social injustice by not standing during the playing of the national anthem.
In an interview with ESPN the Magazine, Rodgers said the following:
“I bring up Colin Kaepernick. It’s July, and the media are still speculating as to why Kaepernick isn’t on an NFL roster after kneeling during the national anthem last season to protest racial inequity in policing. The word “blackballed” is being used with greater frequency, though some people in and around the NFL maintain that the quarterback simply isn’t very good. I ask Rodgers what he thinks, and he demurs at first, then says it would be “ignorant” to suggest Kaepernick’s stance didn’t play a role in his employment status.
A few weeks later, he reaffirms his point. “I think he should be on a roster right now,” he says. “I think because of his protests, he’s not.”
Rodgers tells me that while he doesn’t plan on sitting out the anthem, he believes the protests — which he describes as peaceful and respectful — are positive, mentioning that he’s had conversations with a new teammate, tight end Martellus Bennett, about the issues they represent. “I’m gonna stand because that’s the way I feel about the flag — but I’m also 100 percent supportive of my teammates or any fellow players who are choosing not to,” he says. “They have a battle for racial equality. That’s what they’re trying to get a conversation started around.”
I ask him what he thinks about that battle — the actual subject of Kaepernick’s protest. As always, he pauses to collect his thoughts. “I think the best way I can say this is: I don’t understand what it’s like to be in that situation. What it is to be pulled over, or profiled, or any number of issues that have happened, that Colin was referencing — or any of my teammates have talked to me about.” He adds that he believes it’s an area the country needs to “remedy and improve” and one he’s striving to better understand. “But I know it’s a real thing my black teammates have to deal with.”
Kaepernick has been a free agent since he chose to opt out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers. Kaepernick started a national debate with his decision to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem all last season and, since becoming a free agent, even teams that could use another quarterback have not even given him a look.
Teams’ avoiding Kapernick has led to another debate over whether owners are blackballing him and all signs are pointing that to be true.