Colin Kaepernick not getting signed by NFL teams isn’t just about race

Collin Kaepernick threw for 16 touchdowns and four interceptions in 2016.

Before you scroll to the comments and type as if your life depended on it, allow me to clarify that this is not an “all lives matter” column. Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is currently looking for a new job in the NFL.

On the field, he certainly has the requisite qualifications needed to be at least signed as someone’s backup. For one, he’s only five years removed from leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance. He’s never had a season where he threw more interceptions than touchdowns and he also averaged a career-high 6.8 rushing yards per scramble in the last year. Granted, he finished 2016 with a 1-11 record as the starting quarterback, the 49ers were going to be that bad regardless of who was taking snaps.

Off the field, there are other reasons owners are turning their heads from the idea of bringing in Kaepernick. The largest and most obvious issue is that he’s a Black man who isn’t afraid to voice his opinion on political and social issues. Regardless of his race, though, he put himself in the current position to be scrutinized on every move he makes. Tim Tebow, a White athlete, is the most relevant athlete to make this claim. Being one of the more accomplished players in college football history, in the most popular conference of the SEC, at the most important position of quarterback, Tebow became mocked, hated, and loved for being an outspoken Christian. After building a large fan base while in college, media outlets followed Tebow’s every move while he was in the NFL and even now with updates about his new career in minor league baseball. Every non-generic quote he gives becomes a national sports story for a day and the league stopped giving him chances once franchises saw how much attention he received on a daily basis at practice being the preseason third-string quarterback for the New England Patriots.

A lot of the top stories during the NFL free agency period centered Kaepernick and what his plans were for next season’s national anthem. Then, he made news again for donating a boatload of money to the less fortunate nationally and internationally. If he braids his hair in a different style, that’ll be a story. If he decides to cut off his Afro, that’s definitely a story. If he signs and President Donald Trump actually tweets his opinion about the deal, then that is another headline. It takes a lot of thought to bring in a figure who’s grown larger than sports. He can create a daily media circus at practice and he’s someone who you aren’t sure will even be the absolute starter for you. Race matters, but in this case, it’s not the only thing that matters.

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