Colin Kaepernick silently and peacefully protested, he addressed it with the media, and then, perhaps most importantly from a football standpoint, he addressed it with his teammates. He explained his cause (the oppression of minorities) and his protest (not standing for the national anthem) and said he would be happy to answer any questions they had or to speak with them about it individually in the future.
The response from Kaepernick’s teammates was a mixed bag, at least from a means-of-protest standpoint. But from a cause standpoint? Kaepernick may have just earned the respect of his co-workers.
“I think there’s players who are upset abut it maybe, players who support it maybe, but I think generally the players felt good that Kaepernick addressed them,” San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “It’s good that he thought through it, that this wasn’t just a knee-jerk thing, that this was something that he really did believe in. It’s not unanimous, but he explained to them what was behind it and they supported him at least thinking through it. Now the act itself and the attention it’s bringing, that’s a whole separate thing, and what it represents in the larger world, that might be something they have to discuss and think about it. But they felt that it was principled, that it wasn’t just something (where) he wanted the cameras on him. . . . He addressed it, I’m glad he took the questions, he’s clearly thought this through. This doesn’t mean I agree with everything that Kaepernick is saying or doing, but I believe he’s committed to this, and he has that right in America. I think the locker room really felt that and it was pretty strongly communicated yesterday.”
Indeed, Kaepernick, in a way, showed leadership by speaking openly and honestly with the media and with teammates. His play on the field hasn’t been great in recent years, but you can one thing about Kaepernick: he’s got opinions.
“He never was a rah-rah leader, even when he was really good at quarterback,” Kawakami said. “He got the job under weird circumstances when Alex Smith got hurt and won the job even when Alex Smith got back and led them to a Super Bowl. Even then, it wasn’t like he was this Brett Favre type. He never was that. But players respected hm, he played well, he put in the work. They always said that. They don’t always say he’s a leader. He’s not that guy. But there’s respect for him just as a player, as someone who works hard, as someone who wants to win. As things broke down last year – he lost his mentor with Harbaugh, he wasn’t coached very well, he wasn’t playing very well.”
It didn’t help that the franchise seemed to lose faith in him.
“I think it’s accurate that they were trying to undermine him, and as this was all playing out, the team played terribly,” Kawakami said. “So what are players supposed to do? Fifty-three guys (were) making their own decision about what this means. Do they blame him? I’m sure some players did. Did they support him? I’m sure many players did. Did they not know what to think and just kind of go with the flow? Yeah, I think that’s most of them, and I think that continued into this season. The play was going to determine kind of his role and then he got hurt again in training camp and he missed two weeks. Then he comes back . . . but Gabbert’s been in there every day. He was in there all offseason and Kaepernick wasn’t because he was hurt. Kaepernick wanted to be traded. All these things kind of disassociate him with maybe the heart of the locker room, but if you’re in there and you’re playing well, it doesn’t matter. It just hasn’t happened that way.
“So I don’t think he’s really connected to a lot of the players in the locker room, but I don’t think that was true even when he was playing really well and they were going to the Super Bowl,” Kawakami continued. “He’s not that personality. If anything – and this is the ironic part of this – I think this meeting, this incident, these conversations, have brought him closer to the main people in the locker room because he hasn’t had these kind of conversations. They haven’t known him. Now they know what he’s passionate about. Now they know that he can answer these questions. Now they know that he’s not just a willy-nilly guy posing for magazine spreads and lifting weights. He’s something broader. It doesn’t mean that he’s more popular, but it means that they know him more. And it also doesn’t mean he’s going to be on the team much longer, but I think this is the interesting part of this. This might be the one thing that the rest of the players in the locker room can identify with, and some of the other things that have happened though the years, they haven’t really identified with.”