Timing is everything, and in the case of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, his timing couldn’t have been any better or worse depending on how you look at it.
It was 2012, Week 10 of the NFL season, and then starting quarterback for the 49ers Alex Smith had left the game with a concussion. Enter Colin Kaepernick. From that point on Kaepernick set the league on fire with his play, as much as he has recently with his controversial kneeling protest as the national anthem is played during games.
Kaepernick would eventually lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl and was one Richard Sherman play away from leading the team to back-to-back Super Bowls.
But that was then and this is now.
Kaepernick was at the center of discussion for much of the 2016 season. Despite the shrapnel of criticism, Kaepernick marched out every week staying true to himself and to his cause.
That is until he had a change of heart. Kaepernick recently opted out of his contract with the 49ers, amid speculations they would most likely part ways with him. Following Kaepernick’s release, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Kaepernick will stand during the national anthem next season.
Kaepernick no longer wants his method of protest to detract from the positive change he believes has been created, sources told ESPN. He also said the amount of national discussion on social inequality — as well as support from other athletes nationwide, including NFL and NBA players — affirmed the message he was trying to deliver.
Now I know you are thinking this is an “ah-ha, got you moment,” but it really isn’t. I have been a staunch supporter of Kaepernick since he first took a stand by not standing. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that the optics of this move didn’t seem premeditated and calculated. It’s hard to argue that one plus one doesn’t always equal two, especially in this instance.
But I’ll make the argument anyway.
Since news broke of Kaepernick’s decision you would think individuals would be thrilled that he’s ending the protest. Finally, Kaepernick has seen the light and the error of his ways. However, that’s not the case. Instead, Kaepernick has been equally vilified for his latest position almost as much as his original position.
Although presented as a biracial quarterback, Kaepernick’s Blackness was just too much for some to deal with. His kneeling during the national anthem throughout last season was the icing of the cake. Kaepernick officially reached the point of no return in the eyes of those who love their precious America. He might as well be lumped into the same category as Michael Vick, who some individuals still haven’t forgiven for his involvement in the dog-fighting scandal years ago.
But I’m going to tell you why despite people’s desire to label Kaepernick and/or his cause as ignorant, he has positioned himself to look better than people are portraying him to look. Kaepernick stated that when he saw significant change occur he would stand for the national anthem. We see a White House administration led by a President that some feel is racist, Department of Justice investigations on police departments left and right (at least in the prior administration), and travel bans. What change is Kaepernick possibly referring to that was so monumental, that it made him reconsider his position?
That’s the beauty and genius of it all. Change is much like beauty is, meaning it’s in the eye of the beholder. So even if it was something tangible or intangible that occurred in Kaepernick’s personal life or even on a larger scale, who are we to say that wasn’t enough for him to end his protest? That’s where the genius comes in. You can’t tell someone what is or isn’t enough as it pertains to a battle that they have personally internalized. Different strokes for different folks.
In the end, most who had a problem with Kaepernick’s protest wanted the disrespect for their beloved America to end. Yes, the timing of the decision causes you to have a justified level of skepticism, but we’re all fully aware of what’s operating at hand. As passionate and dedicated as Kaepernick may be to his cause, the market for retired NFL players turned day-time social justice “activist” is scarce.
The man needs a job, preferably a job in the NFL. The NFL provides Kaepernick a greater platform that he otherwise wouldn’t have if he wasn’t in the NFL. Kaepernick knows that. I know that. You know that. So now that we’ve addressed the elephant in the room, let’s address the other elephant in the room. Kaepernick’s polarizing stance forced a country of people, not just sports fans to have a necessary discussion that, otherwise, makes some feel uncomfortable. Neither he nor anyone should have to tone down themselves down just to appease others.
Some think time may have run out on his playing career in the NFL.
Marcus Lamar is a Washington D.C.-based sports journalist. You can check out his podcast “Marc My Words” on Soundcloud, YouTube and coming to iTunes soon. Follow him on Twitter @iam_marcuslamar.