EARLIER: Today in Atlanta, Colin Kaepernick will work out in front of representatives from a reported 24 teams in the 32-team league. Former Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson will run the on-field portion of the showcase, starting at 3 PM. Kaepernick will also sit for recorded interviews, where his views will undergo scrutiny.
UPDATE: The NFL workout for Colin Kaepernick was abruptly switched to a location 60 miles from the facility where it was originally scheduled.
Just 15 minutes before the scheduled start at the Atlanta Falcons training complex in Flowery Branch, Ga., Kaepernick’s representatives said the session would be moved to a high school field in Riverdale, Ga. The move was allegedly made so that media could attend and film the session. The media was barred from the Falcons facility.
No one was sure how many of the teams scheduled to watch the workout would travel to Charles Drew High School, the new location. The NFL said it was “disappointed” Kaepernick did not appear for the workout as planned, according to a statement. posted to Twitter.
The former 49ers quarterback has been out of the league since 2016, when he opted out of the final year of his contract. But instead of signing with a new team, he has languished on the open market. That’s despite teams losing their signal-callers to injury and ineffective play, as the anticipated controversy over signing the league’s first National Anthem kneeler caused teams to shy away from anything beyond feigning interest.
Finally, Kaepernick and his representatives filed a collusion lawsuit and settled. But still he remained on the sidelines, despite staying in shape and trying several PR tactics to win an audition with needy teams. A portion of the public took notice, and has called for him to be given a chance. Last year, the NFL almost had a boycott of its Super Bowl halftime show over the issue.
Reports indicate that entertainment mogul Jay-Z, whose Roc Nation signed with the NFL to produce its Super Bowl halftime and other entertainment and work as a social justice ambassador, convinced the league to provide a showcase for Kaepernick. But the NFL isn’t making it easy, scheduling the audition on short notice and on a day when many decision-makers are traveling or preparing for Sunday games.
To the online world, Kaepernick’s workout is less about his athletic ability and more about providing an opportunity for him in spite of his political views. His exile from the game, during which he has become a political icon thanks to his Nike sponsorship, has stirred emotions in an audience that cares little about football, but deeply wants to see fairness. The hashtag #StillWIthKap indicates their support for his reinstatement.
Sherilyn Ifill, the president & director-counsel of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, summed up the feelings of many when she tweeted, “As I have said, the test today is not for @Kaepernick7. It is the @NFL that is on trial. Do right by this young man, NFL. Just, do right. #StillWithKap
Some online reactions: