Kaepernick received national attention last year when he knelt at a football game during the national anthem. Then a San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Kaepernick explained that his act was a form of silent protest to raise awareness about police brutality and racial injustices in the United States. Critics of the quarterback have claimed that the act of “taking a knee” is disrespectful to the American flag and the military.
At the end of last season, the quarterback opted out of his contract with the 49ers and entered free agency, allowing him to play with other teams. But Kaepernick has yet to sign with a new team. His grievance accuses team owners of violating the league’s collective bargaining agreement.
Kaepernick’s lawyer, Mark Geragos, released a statement on Sunday.
“If the NFL ... is to remain a meritocracy, then principled and peaceful protest — which the owners themselves made great theater imitating weeks ago — should not be punished and athletes should not be denied employment based on partisan political provocation by the Executive Branch of our government,” Geragos said.
It’s highly unusual for quarterbacks to spend so long in free agency, especially one with Kaepernick’s record. Kaepernick, 29, managed to throw 16 touchdowns with four interceptions in a matter of 12 games with the 49ers.
FiveThirtyEight analyzed the length of free-agency periods for quarterbacks in March and again in August in the last five years, showing that Kaepernick’s situation was an outlier. Kaepernick was most recently snubbed by the Tennessee Titans, who denied him the chance to work after the team’s current quarterback was injured.
Many sports fans and analysts have remarked that the quarterback’s inability to get a job is a blatant result of the NFL kneeling protests. President Donald Trump further fanned the flames after he implicitly called Kaepernick a “son of a bitch” and called on NFL fans to boycott games when kneeling occurred.
Trump’s words only pushed more players to kneel in protest.
While most Americans support the idea of free speech, polls have shown that their opinions don’t necessarily support the NFL players’ peaceful protest.