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Colin Kaepernick And The NFL

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Colin Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since January 1, 2017. Might that be about to change? The NFL is holding an audition of sorts for the former 49ers quarterback this Saturday. We've got sports writer Kevin Blackistone in our studios to talk about whether or not this does mean we're going to see Kaepernick back on the field. Kevin, thanks for coming in.

KEVIN BLACKISTONE: Thank you.

MARTIN: So remind us why Colin Kaepernick is not currently playing in the NFL.

BLACKISTONE: He's not currently playing in the NFL because in 2016, he began his protest against police lethality against unarmed black men in America, and he did so by either sitting or kneeling during the national anthem. It caused quite a bit of consternation...

MARTIN: Huge controversy.

BLACKISTONE: Yeah - with the NFL, with its fans, the president got involved in it. And when he opted out of his contract in March of 2017 to become a free agent, nobody touched him, and he then filed a lawsuit to try and get back into the league by saying that the league had colluded against him. The league settled out of court with him, and he is as free to join the league now as he was then, and the league - the league's franchises are as free to hire him now as they were then.

MARTIN: So now all of a sudden the NFL is giving him what appears to be a shot. Is this a real...

BLACKISTONE: You know what...

MARTIN: ...Audition? Is this just for optics?

BLACKISTONE: You know what? This seems to me like 1945 all over again. And what I mean by that is that in 1945, the Boston Red Sox invited three Negro League baseball players to try out for its team, one of whom happened to be a guy by the name of Jackie Robinson. They showed up at Fenway Park and the manager was there and very few other people. It lasted about 90 minutes and none of those players got a shot after that first workout. And in fact, Jackie Robinson said that he felt that it was a sham when the whole thing was called. That seems to me, unless something else happens, to be the case here with the NFL.

If a team in the NFL wants Colin Kaepernick or is interested in him, all they have to do is call his representative and bring it in for a workout. They don't need to go through this entire theater, which, by the way, is happening on a Saturday, when most teams are traveling to a Sunday game, rather than on a Tuesday, which is the open day, which is when they often will bring in free agents to work them out for a position that they may have an opening for.

MARTIN: Nevertheless, Colin Kaepernick is taking the opportunity, right? I mean...

BLACKISTONE: He is.

MARTIN: Is he doing this for his own theatric purposes?

BLACKISTONE: Well, I think he's doing it because, at the end of the day, he's a professional football player, and he would like to ply his trade before he's too old not to. He started his protests when he was 29. He's 32 now. You know, you could argue that the prime time of his career was lost during this hiatus, and, you know, he wants to play football. And I think that there's a place for him in the league. I don't know that any of the teams that have suggested they may show up are the teams that would have an opening for a quarterback. But certainly he should be given every opportunity, which he should never have lost, to play professional football.

MARTIN: Sports writer Kevin Blackistone. Kevin, thanks, we appreciate it.

BLACKISTONE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE FUNK LEAGUE'S "HUMBLE ARROGANCE PT. 3") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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