For over a year, former San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been in the news because of the message he has displayed on the field, namely taking a knee during the national anthem as a message against police brutality towards minorities. Since then, plenty of other players have joined in and while Kaepernick is not a starter, many big-name starting players like Michael Bennett and Marshawn Lynch have joined the cause. While there are plenty of reasons why he is doing it now, does Kaepernick still prose this endeavor, had his career played out differently?
Going Back In Time
The time is February, 2013. The place is New Orleans, Louisiana. The event: the 2012 Super Bowl, featuring a matchup between the 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens. The game is a fantastic watch, with the Ravens grabbing the early lead, the halftime that watched the power go down in half of the Mercedes-Benz stadium, a 108-yard kick return from Jacoby Jones and a storming, second-half comeback for the 49ers lead by Kaepernick.
After overcoming a 22-point deficit (the record at the time), the 49ers had the ball on the Ravens’ 5-yard line, with 1:50 left in the ball game and down 34-29. They had failed to break into the end zone on three attempts and after a 75-yard drive, had one chance left to take the lead in the biggest game in the sport.
The fourth-down play was a fade to the corner of the end zone, with wide receiver Michael Crabtree as the intended target, taking on nickel corner Jimmy Smith. As the ball sailed out of the back of the end zone, over the heads of Crabtree and Smith, the grab of Crabtree’s right shoulder was an obvious hold on the corner that was uncalled. But what if it had been called? What if the 49ers had a fresh set of downs on the 1-yard line to give the ball to running back Frank Gore, fresh off a season that saw him go for 1,214 yards on the ground?
Unlike the Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers would have pounded the ball into the end zone, giving them the lead and the Ravens right around a minute to get the ball down the field and win the game against a formidable defense. The 49ers win this game, which means whether Kaepernick’s production goes off of a cliff in 2015 or not, Harbaugh does not get fired and the quarterback-coach tandem that has worked for three seasons stays together. So the question is: With coaching staff stability and a Super Bowl ring, does he turn into a social justice warrior?
The Fall Out
It takes more time, but this is always where Kaepernick was headed. As far as talent goes, he brings a unique skill set to a talented roster; he does not make a roster talented. He was destined to be pulled by off-the-field passions and interests because he would not have always been on a super talented team. His last season with Harbaugh, the team went 8-8, showing signs of slipping up.
Kaepernick has put up over $1 million of his own cash, along with helping out or starting multiple charities and organizations since he first started taking a knee in preseason. He has yet to do the puff-piece interview, where he makes his case on how unfair the system is and questioning why he remains unsigned, only doing interviews on what he is doing and how it helps. Investing heavy in programs that help prep former inmates to get jobs and integrate back into society.
If you agree with Kaepernick or not, he is really invested in this. It is not a bit, nor is it designed for attention or to get a starting job. He truly believes in what he is doing. And while coaches can say it is a distraction, he is still doing good in the community and trying to make a difference. While other players deal with distractions that involve troubles with the law, his is about trying to fix a problem.
What it comes down to is Kaepernick was always going to do this, no matter how much bling he took a knee with. For those who are still clinging to the idea that this is a way for a backup to get attention, that is proven to be naive because Kaepernick is proving that getting back into football is not the pressing issue he is focusing on.
He has dedicated to a cause outside of sport and bigger than the NFL, backing up his dedication with actions, not just words.