Whether you love him or hate him, you have indeed heard of this week’s Spotlight Athlete, Colin Kaepernick, a former NFL quarterback. Kaepernick gained significant notoriety both on the field and off in his 5 years with the NFL. From throwing touchdowns to making political statements, Colin Kaepernick’s legacy will proceed him.
Kaepernick’s career began in 2011 when he signed with the San Francisco 49ers as the back up to Alex Smith. The following year he was used sparingly throughout the season. He scored his first NFL touchdown that year in Game 4 against the New York Jets. It was not until his next season in 2013 that he became a starter and threw a career high 412 years in the season opener against the Green Bay Packers. He continued to impress during the 2013 season and led his team to the NFC Championship Game where they were defeated by the Seattle Seahawks 17-23. In June of 2014 Colin Kaepernick was signed for a 6 year extension with the 49ers worth up to 126 million dollars. Just one year later his career was halted with shoulder injury. It was announced in 2015 that he would be out for the remainder of the season following a shoulder surgery. After a series of other surgeries in late 2015, Kaepernick had lost weight and muscle mass which made him have to fight for his starting position with the 49ers. He was unfortunately beat out and did not start early 2016. In week 6 against the Buffalo Bills, it was announced that Kaepernick would start, making it his first start of the season. He continued to play well throughout that year as he joined Michael Vick, Cam Newton, Randall Cunningham, and Marcus Mariota as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to record at least three passing touchdowns and 100 yards rushing in a game. In 2017 Kaepernick became a free agent and was not picked up by any team in the following years. However, the upcoming 2020 season, it is reported that he has “multiple NFL teams interested in signing him” according to NFL Network reporter Michael Silver.
2016 was a very polarizing year for Colin Kaepernick. It was his last year to date in the NFL due to the political stance he took using his NFL platform. Starting with his third game of the 2016 season, Kaepernick silently sat during the National Anthem, stating “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that opposing black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” This action was very controversial throughout the NFL and America. He was both adored and loathed for using his platform for a peaceful protest. Many believed he should not take this stance in the NFL while others supported him heavily. Following week three, Kaepernick took a knee for the remainder of the season, during the Star-Spangled Banner to show a respectful but loud protest for police brutality and social injustice. The idea of “taking a knee” came after having a discussion with veteran Nate Boyer. Nate had been bothered by Kaepernick sitting during the anthem and felt he was disrespecting the flag and the country. He wrote a letter to Colin explaining his reasoning and Kaepernick then invited him to have a discussion about it. They met up for coffee and both parties explained the reasoning behind their thoughts. Boyer then suggested to Kaepernick that a more respectful way to protest was by kneeling rather than sitting. Kneeling has been a known gesture as a sign of respect used to pray, to honor fallen soldiers and loved ones, to be knighted and when people propose. This is why Boyer believed it was a respectful way to both honor the flag and America, while making a statement and backing it. Regardless of what Boyer and Kaepernick believed, this gesture started controversy throughout the whole country and eventually caused Kaepernick his job. He became a free agent in 2017 and was not picked up for the following season.
The year 2020 changed many peoples opinions on what Kaepernick had done, after the murder of George Floyd. The Black Lives Matter organization and many other supporters protested police brutality following his murder. People are now looking back on what Kaepernick did as both a respectful and peaceful way to protest. He is now even getting interest from multiple teams to return back to the NFL in the 2020 season. Whether you support what Colin Kaepernick did or not, he will go down in history as not only a tremendous athlete, but also as a trailblazer for an end to police brutality and social injustice.