On Saturday afternoon at 2 pm in Atlanta, Colin Kaepernick was due to work out for NFL teams in a last-minute thrown together event put on by the NFL. By 2:30 pm it was canceled with Kaepernick offering to work out in a separate location, with full media access, for those that chose to attend. Immediately the media began releasing information suggesting Kaepernick wasn’t serious about returning to the NFL and the spectacle that revolves around him.

Let’s take a step back, shall we?

In February, Kaepernick and the NFL agreed to a settlement on the collusion case he’d brought against the league. That settlement is sealed so we have no way of knowing just how much the league gave him for his inability to find a job in the past three seasons. What we do know is Kaepernick, nor his camp, has heard a peep from the league since then. We also know that Kaepernick has been spending his time working out, as if he was still in the NFL, and giving to various charities across the country.

So, nine months later, the NFL pops up like that ex that realizes you give good Christmas gifts and the holidays are approaching, with an offer he was only given two hours to refuse. The workout would be in Atlanta and closed to the media. Anyone who has any amount of sense was skeptical. Why would the league create what amounts to a tryout on a Saturday afternoon when teams are prepping for their Sunday games and scouts are deployed across the country at college football games? Despite all the red flags, Kaepernick agreed.

On Saturday, on top of denying Kaepernick the right to record his workout, the NFL presented Kaepernick and his lawyers with a waiver that was probably presented as a standard practice but had all the devil in the details. It isn’t uncommon for players trying out for teams to sign liability waivers. But this was no standard liability waiver. Many lawyers, after reviewing the waiver, suggested a lawyer allowing him to sign it would be committing malpractice. Signing the waiver could potentially wipe out any chance Kaepernick may have in the future for suing the league. Kaepernick refused to sign and walked away.

What exactly was the league hoping to accomplish with this workout? With so many starting quarterbacks going down this season was the league providing cover to teams who were afraid to be the first to bring him for a workout? Was it to get film on him to suggest he isn’t good, so every time another quarterback who was picked up from Home Depot last weekend gets a start the public doesn’t wonder why Kaepernick wasn’t signed? Was Jay Z really pushing to make this happen so he could start rubbing away the stench his partnership with the league put on his reputation? No one really seems to know but it is clear they weren’t operating in good faith. 

Whatever it was, Kaepernick was prepared. Not only was he prepared to workout, but he was also prepared for the league to pull a stunt at the last second. He had another location secured and performed for whoever traveled the 70 miles in Atlanta traffic to watch him. Many in the media speculated he should have agreed to the conditions put forth by the league if he was serious about a return to the NFL.

Given what we know about Kaepernick, that was never an option. It’s easy to dismiss these things as “just sports” but not one of us will give up our rights for an employer, and that’s who the NFL is in this situation. Giving up everything you believe in for a small shot a job simply isn’t a stance worth taking.

As for the spectacle surrounding Kaepernick, there were two protestors at the original site of the workout. In contrast, there was almost an entire chapter full of members from Kaepernick’s Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity supporting him. Unless you’re counting the number of Bluetooth headsets or gold hoop earrings, there was no spectacle at all. All there was, was a man, who once took his team to the Super Bowl, who is ready to play as soon as the league stops trying to play him.

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