Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Kaepernick Mess: Where It's Headed

San Francisco 49er QB Colin Kaepernick is in deep trouble. He's a football player who doesn't seem to care about football at the moment.

His football career is hanging by a thread, yet that's clearly not his focus. On Friday, he was launched into the realm of racial politics--on a national level yet. Just before the Niners played the Green Bay Packers, Kaepernick, who is biracial, decided not to stand during the pregame national anthem, protesting, he later explained, the nation's mistreatment of blacks and other minorities..

During the next 24 hours, all hell broke loose

Some fans support his protest. Others condemn him for disrespecting the flag and the anthem. He has the support of the Niner organization and the NFL doesn't require players to stand when the anthem is being played. But it's not possible penalties that's the problem. As a QB he's on shaky ground--actually. more like quicksand. This is the same QB who, a few seasons ago, was riding high, barely missing a Super Bowl win. Then in his mid twenties, big, with great speed and a rocket arm,  he was considered the model QB, the future of the NFL.

But in Friday's game, which the Niners lost 21-10, he looked terrible--sloppy passing, completing just 2 of 6 dinky throws, indecision, lackluster running,. Part of it was plain old rust. He hasn't played since last November, and it showed  He's also recovering from a shoulder injury, which has limited his practice time. Even more important, he's playing for a new coach, Chip Kelly, in a new system with many new players.

During the off season, Kaepernick, 28, wanted to be traded. The Jets and Broncos were possibilities but the Niners never could work out a deal. The problem was that his last two seasons were awful. He was regressing and no one could figure out why. Many thought Kelly, who has a knack with QBs, could fix whatever is ailing Kaepernick. But, because the QB has been rehabbing that bum shoulder, Kelly hasn't had a chance to do much with him.

Kaepernick isn't even good enough to reclaim his starting job from Blaine Gabbert, who has a fraction of Kaepernick's talent and has been regarded, at best, as a career backup.

But now Colin K not just a football player, he's also a civil-rights activist. That will be a major distraction from now on. The Niners probably aren't sure what to do with him. He has great potential, but will it ever be realized? His average annual salary is $19 million. Right now he's worth nowhere near that.

What happens now?

Kaepernick's career may be circling the drain at the moment, but he will resurrect it, with the help of Kelly or the coach of some other team. He has way too much talent to fall by the wayside.

But what will happen to Kaepernick the activist? Will he sit down again when the anthem is played pregame? All this raises an even bigger question. Will Kaepernick's protest trigger activism among other athletes, pro and/or college?

On this front, the next few months will be very interesting.