Donald Trump may have been at least partially responsible for Colin Kaepernick not getting signed to an NFL contract after he famously knelt during the national anthem, Pop Culture reports.
Kaepernick has been without an NFL contract since the end of the 2016-2017 season, during which he famously “took a knee” during the national anthem at a pre-season game, starting a trend that eventually spread to other NFL players, to additional professional athletes in other sports, and to college and even high school sports.
It also began a sometimes-rancorous public conversation about respect for the anthem, and about the juxtaposition of sports and politics.
And it seems to have ended Kaepernick’s NFL career. After the 2016-2017 season, when he became a free agent, no team showed any interest in signing him for the 2017-2018 season, a situation that was repeated again in the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 seasons.
Now, ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith believes that Donald Trump may have played at least a part in that, for a couple of reasons.
First, Trump has never been circumspect about his disdain for athletes who don’t stand for the national anthem. As Politico reported in March 2018, Trump famously tweeted that “any son of a b*tch” who doesn’t stand for the national anthem should be fired. And when the NFL changed its policy to mandate that players on the field must stand for the anthem, while still allowing them to remain in the locker room during the pre-game ceremonies if they didn’t want to stand, Trump said that the league should require all players to be on the field for the anthem.
Signing Kaepernick would have invoked the distaste of the president, and that’s simply not a good look for an NFL team, says Smith.
But beyond that, there’s a more specific reason, Smith speculates: legalizing gambling. Specifically, a move is afoot to legalize sports betting, which would require Congressional approval and Trump’s signature. And Smith explains how signing Kaepernick could have gummed up the process, potentially costing NFL owners billions.
“The NFL owners were trying to get involved with that, where they were trying to get a percentage of the bets and all of this other stuff that was going on. So what happens is, we’re talking billions. Well, guess what? In order for that to happen, you need Congress to sign off on it and you need the President to sign off on it. What you don’t need is the President turning his attention towards you and going against you just because he doesn’t like you,” Smith said.
Colin Kaepernick, for his part, is still gunning for an NFL contract, and as recently as two weeks ago, at least one team was rumored to be interested in signing him as a backup.