The NFL is holding a private workout tomorrow for Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who hasn’t played for three years after publicly taking a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality.
After he left the 49ers, Kaepernick claimed teams colluded to keep him off the field, but settled with the league earlier this year. He also signed a lucrative deal with Nike to be one of the faces of their “Just Do It” campaign.
Some of the details of this weekend’s tryout are head-scratchers. It’s happening more than halfway through the NFL season, for example. And holding it the day before Sunday games will make it harder for team officials to attend; most tryouts like this happen on Tuesdays. Kaepernick’s former teammate Eric Reid called the event a “PR stunt.”
“It’s unclear what’s going on here,” said Dan Kaplan, who covers the NFL for the sports website The Athletic.
He says coaches have long had the opportunity to sign Kaepernick but were worried about fallout from the league and from franchise owners.
“The fact is he was a mid-tier quarterback and that’s not the type of player that a team is willing to take a lot of heat for,” he said.
But there is the potential for the right team to expand its player base. Lori Latrice Martin, a professor of African American studies at Louisiana State University, says that for all the backlash the league got in 2016, there’s a large group of fans who might just watch more football if Kaepernick comes back.
“The NFL can benefit from the support that Kaepernick is showed in the community,” she said.