I Was Just Thinking: So Now Can We Hire Kaepernick Back?

By Norma Adams-Wade
Founding Member of NABJ

Football great Colin Kaepernick’s take-a-knee gesture is now famous as a rallying cry around the world against police brutality, racial injustices, and the killing of citizen George Floyd. I was just thinking…does this mean that we now can get the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback rehired by his former team or as an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) by another? The talented, caring, and socially-savvy star athlete has made it clear throughout his National Football League career troubles that playing professional football is what he wants to do.

Instead, politics and the League’s quest for sponsorship money and approval by conservative fans got in the way. But a recent Black man killed by a White cop has unwittingly catapulted Kaepernick’s fight against police brutality and the killing of unarmed Black men and women to the top of daily newscasts, and front and center in endless social media posts. Minneapolis White police officer Derek Chauvin, 44, was fired and arrested after a bystander’s cell phone video recorded him on May 25 committing a horrendous, fatal offense.

Chauvin pressed his knee for eight minutes, 46 seconds on the neck of George Floyd, 46 — an unarmed Minneapolis Black man who died after pleading that he could not breathe. Floyd was suspected of paying for a pack of cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill at a nearby retail store. His death sparked daily protests and riots. The officer was arrested and his lesser, original charge ultimately was upgraded to second-degree murder.

Three other officers were fired and later charged as accessories. If you don’t know Kaepernick’s back story by now you probably have been under a rock or asleep beside Rip Van Winkle. The player, fondly known as Kap, was the 49ers’ quarterback from 2011 to 2016 and led the team to several Super Bowls, although they ultimately lost. Later, Kap’s standing with the franchise plummeted after polarizing reactions to his kneeling began.

He ultimately opted out of his contract, became a free agent, but no team has picked him up. He has made it clear that he still wants to play. Since the George Floyd killing, much has been made about the link between two kinds of kneelings – Kap’s kneeling to save lives, the cop’s kneeing to end one. Perhaps Kaepernick’s heroic kneeling might lead us to substitute the Black National Anthem to be sung at the opening of each NFL game instead of the traditional National Anthem. The BNA words and lyrics, written by two historic brothers – James Weldon and John Rosamond Johnson — carry a significant, needed message:

“Lift ev’ry voice and sing, till earth and heaven ring. Ring with the harmonies of liberty. …Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, Let us march on till victory is won!”

Norma Adams-Wade is a veteran, award-winning Journalist, a graduate of UT-Austin and Dallas native. She is also one of the founders of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and was inducted into the NABJ Hall of Fame.