There are several reasons that the San Francisco 49ers would be justified in using to release Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, aside from his recent national anthem controversy. He has been underperforming since he signed his big contract after taking over for former #1 overall pick, Alex Smith, and leading the 49ers to an NFC Championship and Super Bowl berth. Injuries have been a large part of the problem, but the 49ers don’t have much more of an option at QB and were not able to field any decent trade offers. With the new addition of Head Coach Chip Kelly, it was the expectation (or at least the hope) that the once touted quarterback would resurrect his career, being that he is a perfect fit for the fast-paced, west coast offensive system.
The 49ers decided to keep Kaepernick on the 53-man roster because let’s face it, Blaine Gabbert is no Joe Montana; however, recently the quarterback started to make headlines in a different way.
With the rising instances of gun violence and police brutality, the country has been sent into a sort of state of disarray, leading to raised tensions between minority groups and officers of the law. Kaepernick decided he wanted to stand up for the Black Lives Matter movement, or rather sit down. During the ceremonious national anthem that precedes every NFL game, Kaepernick decided to stay seated instead of standing, as is tradition. The media first noticed it during the 3rd of 4 pre-season games, so naturally they went fishing for a story. When asked about his actions, Kaepernick said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
“I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone.”
Unsurprisingly, there was a tremendous amount of backlash from the quarterback’s words, with a large amount of citizens saying the quarterback is “unpatriotic” and worse, while other’s have come to his defense. Many of Kaepernick’s critics have laid an emphasis on the military and the many veterans living here in the United States; however, Kaepernick clarified that “I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone.” Even President Barack Obama has spoken on the matter, essentially agreeing with most that while the action was probably not something he would do, Kaepernick is exercising his 1st amendment right to free speech and right to peaceful protest.
Of more concern to the San Francisco 49ers are the many fans and police officers that have threatened to boycott the team this fall, including the abandonment of job posts at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA, so long as Kaepernick continues to protest the anthem and remains on the team. The NFL League Office issued a statement soon after the 1st reported situation stating, “that players are encouraged but not required to stand for the national anthem.” Officials for the 49ers backed that statement up by saying that Kaepernick has a right to protest, and they will not interfere with it. When it comes to the team perspective though, there are more factors to consider regarding this matter. They have fans to please, stadiums to fill, tickets to sell, sponsorships to maintain and a number of other monetary and brand priorities with further lasting and reaching implications. So what are their options?
The 49ers by law cannot force Kaepernick to stand for the national anthem, which would be the easiest solution. They could cut the quarterback for many of the reasons stated earlier but not for refusing to stand for the national anthem, but the media would have a field day. The problems with cutting him are that they do not exactly have a plethora of options at QB as well as the fact that they will have to send $14 million dollars with Kaepernick as they push him out of the door, albeit a small price for maintaining other revenue streams if they are deemed to be at risk. Cutting him would spark exponentially more controversy that the 49ers didn’t want or need in the first place, not to mention any worries stemming from a legal perspective.
Now that the pre-season is over and the 53-man rosters have been set, the speculation to whether Kaepernick would be cut has ended. I believe that the San Francisco 49ers made the correct decision in retaining his services for a few reasons. First, while many people have taken issue with Kaepernick’s stance, there have been just as many people that have come to his defense, so with a split position there seems to be a higher risk in releasing him. Ticket sales and sponsorships are already locked in for the upcoming season and potentially a few more years into the future, so that is not of immediate concern.
Colin Kaepernick’s #7 San Francisco 49ers jersey sales have spiked through the roof in the past week alone, actually selling out at the 3rd most popular jersey right now, which is more sales than his jersey netted in the previous 8 months combined.
Although he remains on the team, many people are unhappy with him and the 49ers organization, but he has every right to express his beliefs on the platform given to him, and his jersey sales are evidence of that. If the 49ers were to cut him, it should be from an unbiased football perspective and not because of a media headline. Moving forward as the President of the San Francisco 49ers organization, I would keep the following in mind:
- The team doesn’t have a true #1 QB ahead of Kaepernick.
- With the new addition of Head Coach Chip Kelly and his system that seems to be tailor made to players of Kaepernick’s ability, we should see how the season plays out.
- Because of this, I would rather pay him the $11 million due this year for him to be on the team then pay $14 million for him to not be on the team.
- Because the 49ers team is not going to be a “force to be reckoned with” this season, Colin Kaepernick is keeping the team relevant.
I would field trade offers throughout the year, keeping in mind all of our current quarterback’s progress and on-field play; however, his value has dropped significantly due to the anthem controversy, so the best approach would be to wait a year to see if his potential is reached once again while letting the controversy die down until it is forgotten. Then I would be able to cut him without as much backlash or trade him for a better value if he does not perform up to his salary. Nevertheless, if the time comes that Kaepernick has earned the starting position, I would make it contingent on him standing for the national anthem.