On Monday, President Donald Trump Colin Kaepernick called out former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, saying in part that “I’m sure nobody ever heard of him.” Those comments came days after an AFC general manager told Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman that one reason Kaepernick remained unsigned was because “[S]ome teams fear the backlash from fans after getting him. They think there might be protests or [President Donald] Trump will tweet about the team.” Here’s Trump’s response, in full:
“And you know, your San Francisco quarterback,” Trump told a rally in Louisville, Kentucky. “I’m sure nobody ever heard of him. I’m just reporting the news. There was an article today -- I love to report the news and then they said I made a mistake, right? I said, ‘No, the people reporting the news made a mistake if it’s wrong.’ But there was an article today, it was reported that NFL owners don’t want to pick him up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump. Do you believe that? I just saw that. I just saw that. I said if I remember that one I’m gonna report it to the people of the Kentucky. Because they like it when people actually stand for the American flag.”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was asked Thursday’s about Trump’s comments.
“That’s a comment that he’s going to make and that’s fine,” Goodell told ESPN’s Mike & Mike, via PFT.
Perhaps some teams are genuinely concerned about the public backlash to signing Kaepernick, who began the 2016 season by taking a knee during the national anthem. It was how he chose to protest social inequality. But there’s also the matter of Kaepernick struggling since coach Jim Harbaugh left San Francisco for the University of Michigan following the 2014 season. In 2012 -- the year the 49ers went to the Super Bowl, Kaepernick ranked third in value per play among all quarterbacks, according to Football Outsiders. He was seventh in 2013. The last two seasons, he’s ranked no better than 30th.
For his part, Goodell thinks teams are evaluating Kaepernick for his football abilities not for his political beliefs.
“Our teams are out there working hard to figure out how they can improve each of their clubs,” the commissioner said. “They’re making the best decisions they can. And they’re going to do what they can to improve their teams and win. That’s what they want to do for the fans. So that’s what they’re focused on and that’s what we’re focused on. Everyone’s going to make other comments, and obviously we’re respectful of those comments, particularly from the president.”
Back in August, more than two months before the election, Kaepernick called Trump “openly racist.”
Trump’s response at the time: “I have followed [Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the anthem] and I think it’s personally not a good thing, I think it’s a terrible thing. And maybe he should find a country that works better for him, let him try. It won’t happen.”
While Kaepernick waits for his next NFL opportunity, he is busy raising money to fly food and water to people in Somalia. And should he get another chance, Kaepernick will reportedly stand for the anthem next season.