Colin Kaepernick’s return imminent?
Kaepernick, who last appeared for the San Francisco 49ers in the 2016 NFL season, has not been rostered after he began kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police violence, a term commonly referred to as being “Blackballed.”
Wednesday’s workout was the 2012 Super Bowl runner-up’s first since he was exiled from the league and his first visit with a professional organization since the Seattle Seahawks in 2017. Now that the University of Nevada product has been out of the league for six years, the same amount of time that he was in it, the question remains whether the Raiders were merely paying him lip service, or if they are genuinely interested in making him a backup to Derek Carr.
Changes in Vegas
The Raiders were the unfortunate subject of criticism throughout the 2021 season, mostly regarding Jon Gruden’s off-field comments about women and minorities that led to him resigning.
It would not be unrealistic for the Raiders’ brass to look at ways to clean up its reputation, and bringing in Kaepernick, much less signing him, would certainly be a way to achieve that.
Team owner Mark Davis’ father and former owner, Al Davis, was a pioneer in providing equal opportunities. The more senior Davis enlisted the NFL’s first Black head coach, Art Shell, and its first woman chief executive, Amy Trask, in the modern era; he was also the first owner to draft a Black quarterback, Eldridge Dickey, in the first round, and the second to hire a Hispanic head coach, Tom Flores.
Vegas recently made a trade with the New England Patriots for Jared Stidham, making him the primary backup, while Nick Mullens signed on as a third-stringer. The NFL has encouraged teams to sign Kaepernick, and although it would create a logjam, he is as close as ever since initially exiting the league.
Something or nothing?
Mark Davis said in 2020 that the Raiders would “have his blessing” to sign Kaepernick if deemed appropriate. He would likely not see the field with the excellent play of iron man Carr, but he would be restored to his livelihood and put an end to a longstanding debate about whether freezing him out of the league was based on performance or underlying factors.
Raider offensive coordinator, Mick Lombardi, was in San Francisco with Kaepernick from 2013 to 2016, which could help the QB’s case.
“That 2016 season, my last year, my teammates voted me most courageous and inspirational player,” Kaepernick said. “So, when you’re talking about the people that are in the building, that has never come out that I’ve been a distraction. That’s never come out that I’ve been an issue for the people I’ve played with.”
He also noted that both of his former coaches, Jim Harbaugh and Chip Kelly, said he “made the locker room better,” as opposed to a popular narrative surrounding his time in the Bay.
The former Niners’ pass-thrower is most commonly known for his fight against racism, which has split opinion amongst many fans.
Kaepernick remains steadfast that the NFL could be doing more to fight against racial divides.
“You have ‘End Racism’ in the back of your end zone,” said Kaepernick. “You have ‘Black Lives Matter’ on your helmet. Everything I’ve said should be in alignment with what you’re saying publicly,” he said. “It’s a $16 billion business. When I first took a knee, my jersey went to No. 1. When I did the deal with Nike, their value increased by $6 billion. Six billion. With a B. So if you’re talking about the business side, it shows [it’s] beneficial.”
Kaepernick’s ultimate goal remains to win a championship, after he and the Niners lost to the Baltimore Ravens 34-31 in Super Bowl XLVII in what was his best attempt.
He may not get a chance to lead the charge to his career goal, but if the Raiders offer him a contract, there will always be the hope of the extraordinary.
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