Colin Kaepernick wore a ‘Kunta Kinte’ T-shirt at his NFL tryout to give a nod to the enslaved main character from Roots as he tried to impress league scouts after a three-year absence
Colin Kaepernick did not answer reporters’ questions at Saturday’s NFL tryout in Atlanta, but he did make a statement by arriving in a T-shirt bearing the name of author Alex Haley’s main character in Roots, the award-winning novel about slavery in the American South.
The embattled free agent quarterback did a workout for a handful of NFL scouts in Georgia with ‘Kunta Kinte’ emblazoned across his chest. That character was played by LeVar Burton in the 1977 ABC miniseries adaptation of Haley’s book, and is perhaps best remembered for refusing to be renamed ‘Toby’ even while being whipped by his belligerent slave master.
In recent years, musical artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Missy Elliott have written songs referencing Kinte, who remains a symbol of defiance to many. A former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Kaepernick has also become a symbol of defiance after kneeling during the national anthem throughout the 2016 NFL season to protest inequality and racist police brutality.
He has remained out of the league since opting out of his contract in March of 2017 in anticipation of his release, although varying numbers of players have continued the demonstrations before NFL games.
Colin Kaepernick looks on during a private NFL workout held at Charles R Drew high school on November 16, 2019 in Riverdale, Georgia. Due to disagreements between Kaepernick and the NFL the location of the workout was abruptly changed. Kaepernick arrived in a shirt with ‘Kunta Kinte’ emblazoned across the front, referring to the famous character in ‘Roots’ Kunta Kinte was played by LeVar Burton in the 1977 ABC miniseries adaptation of Haley’s book (pictured), and is perhaps best remembered for refusing to be renamed ‘Toby’ even while being whipped by his belligerent slave master
Kaepernick is shown here during the NFL workout Saturday afternoon, which was said to have lasted for about 1.5 hours. Eight NFL scouts reportedly attended the workout. Kaepernick stopped to talk with fans and sign autographs after the workout ended Kaepernick had filed a grievance against the NFL, accusing all 32 teams of colluding against him in retaliation for the controversial protests. He and former teammate Eric Reid, another protester, settled their respective claims against the league in February for undisclosed amounts.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Reid and Kaepernick split ‘less than $10 million,’ but other estimates have claimed the settlement was more lucrative for the players.
Early last week the NFL announced an opportunity for Kaepernick to try out for teams in Atlanta, but after initially agreeing to attend, the 32-year-old opted instead to host his own workout after disagreeing with the league over media access and the details of a waiver.
Page Six is reporting that Nike planned on using the footage for a congratulatory social media post or advertisement. ‘Page Six has learned exclusively that while Nike wasn’t filming, it did have a marketing move up its sleeve — in the form of a branded congratulations to be posted to Kaepernick,’ read the report. Scouts from eight NFL teams attended Kaepernick’s workout, although 25 had originally planned on going to the league’s tryout.
One anonymous NFL executive told ESPN that Kaepernick still possesses ‘elite’ arm strength.
COLIN KAEPERNICK’S NFL CAREER
- 2011 – Taken as 36th overall draft pick by San Francisco 49ers
- 2011 – Makes debut for 49ers, playing three games
- 2012 – Becomes starting quarterback midway through season. That same season, has 163 rushing yards in playoff game against Green Bay, an NFL record by a quarterback in postseason. Leads 49ers to Super Bowl, where they lose to Baltimore Colts
- 2013 – Guides the 49ers to another strong season as they reach NFC Championship game, before losing to Seattle Seahawks
- 2014 – Plays 16 games
- 2015 – Plays nine games
- 2016 – Begins kneeling during pre-game playing of U.S. national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice, the first and most prominent of dozens of NFL players to do so during season
- 2016 – Plays 12 games for 49ers
- 2017 – Opts out of final year of contract and becomes free agent. He is not picked up by any other team
- 2018 – Stars in controversial Nike commercial released at the start of NFL season
- 2019 – Has tryout in Atlanta in quest to impress an NFL team to sign him
A spokesman told reporters the league was ‘disappointed that Colin did not appear for his workout.’ In the statement, the league cited issues including media availability and a liability waiver. ‘Colin’s decision has no effect on his status in the league. He remains an unrestricted free agent eligible to sign with any club,’ the NFL said. Kaepernick’s attorney’s claimed the NFL ‘demanded’ he sign an ‘unusual liability waiver’ as a pre-condition for the workout. Sports Illustrated obtained a copy of the NFL’s waiver, and according to a piece on SI.com by attorney Michael McCann, the league was effectively asking Kaepernick to sign away his right to sue teams in the future, regardless of whether or not they participated in collusion.
‘Kaepernick—who clearly believes the league and teams unlawfully schemed to keep him out of the NFL from 2017 to 2019—would not want to surrender the ability to invoke that legal right in the future,’ McCann wrote. ‘Stated differently, if teams used the workout to engage in collusive activities against Kaepernick, there is no reason for Kaepernick to forgo the chance to pursue a legal claim over those activities.
Kaepernick also wanted his own film crew to attend and videotape the session, which the NFL had objected to. Jeff Nalley, Kaepernick’s agent, was skeptical of the league’s intentions with the workout. ‘If teams want to see him, they will ask to work him out,’ he told reporters. ‘No team asked for this workout.’
Nalley said he feared all along that there was ‘an ulterior motive’ behind the NFL´s offer to stage an unprecedented, combine-style workout for one player – especially since Kaepernick was given only two hours to accept or reject it. The league turned down his requests to move the workout to a later date or to hold it on a Tuesday, when more coaches and general managers would be likely to attend since that is an off day for most teams.
‘I wore these socks, in the past, because the rogue cops that are allowed to hold positions in police departments, not only put the community in danger, but also put the cops that have the right intentions in danger by creating an environment of tension and mistrust,’ he said in a 2016 statement. ‘I have two uncles and friends who are police officers and work to protect and serve ALL people. So before these socks, which were worn before I took my public stance, are used to distract from the real issues, I wanted to address this immediately.’
Kaepernick has reportedly continued to train in hopes of returning to the NFL.
Eric Reid (left) was the first player to join Kaepernick’s in taking a knee to protest extrajudicial killings of black people by police when the pair were teammates on the 49ers
The NFL, however, put out a statement saying it was ‘disappointed’ that Kaepernick switched locations The debate over whether Kaepernick belongs in the league has been a constant theme over the last few years as many NFL teams have struggled to find competent quarterbacks. Kaepernick did lead the 49ers to three consecutive NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl, and his career 88.9 quarterback rating is superior to the marks of several quarterbacks who started over the course of the 2018 season.
Recently Houston Texans All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins told GQ that he got mad last season when the team needed a quarterback but did not reach out to Kaepernick. ‘Yeah, I was upset,’ Hopkins said. ‘Everybody needed to give Kaep a look. He can help a team win. I’ve seen a lot of quarterbacks that’s not as good as Kaep, but teams don’t want the heat behind them.’
Over his six-year NFL career, Kaepernick completed 59.8 percent of his passes for 12,271 yards, 72 touchdowns and just 30 interceptions. He also ran for 2,300 yards and 13 touchdowns, gaining 6.1 yards per carry. Previously both Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said they feel as though Kaepernick is good enough to be playing in the NFL, and Rogers went so far as to tell ESPN that he believes the former University of Nevada star remains a free agent because of the protests. However, Kaepernick won only 11 of 35 starts from 2014 to 2016, and had lost his starting job by the end of the 2016 campaign. By Alex Raskin Sports News Editor For Dailymail.com and Associated Press
Main Photo: Colin Kaepernick, Scoopnest