“I am still up at 5 a.m. training five, six days a week making sure I’m prepared to take a team to a Super Bowl again,” the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback said. “That’s not something I will ever let go of, regardless of the actions of 32 teams and their partners to deny me employment. The same way I was persistent in high school is the same way I’m gonna be persistent here.”
Although he played his last pro football game on New Year’s Day 2017, Kaepernick has remained a polarizing figure on-and-off the field. His outspokenness about police violence, racial profiling, and other social justice issues appeared to make every single team wary of signing him.
After questions surfaced about an unspoken pact within the league to blackball Kaepernick, the footballer filed a collusion grievance in 2017. On February 8, 2019, the NFL reached an undisclosed settlement with Kaepernick, and he was supposed to perform a tryout for 25 teams in November of that same year. However, the final affair was botched, Kaepernick ended up showing off his skills at a venue different from the one originally agreed upon, and reports from all parties still conflict as to who was at fault.
Through the publishing of this piece, other former players have been enticed to return to the game. Tim Tebow was coaxed out of a six-retirement to play for the Jacksonville Jaguars last season, and Josh McCown was also asked by the Philadelphia Eagles to come out of retirement and be a backup quarterback in 2019. Meanwhile, the closest Kaepernick’s been to officially playing in-game again has been the return of his likeness to video games as of Madden NFL ’21.
Kaepernick has kept and has received numerous accolades for his non-football-related deeds, though. In 2017, he received the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, and Amnesty International awarded him with its Ambassador of Conscience Award the following year. Kaepernick also teamed up with Ava DuVernay for a limited Netflix series, Colin in Black and White. The project takes viewers back to Kaepernick’s high school days and plans to share where that noted persistence began.
“When you look at Black and Brown folks, especially Black and Brown youth,” he told Ebony, “the message is staying true to yourself, believing in yourself, having confidence in your identity, and not letting anybody take that from you.”