Add Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James to the NBA contingent which believes former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is being blackballed by the NFL for his social views.
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and star Stephen Curry, having followed Kaepernick’s career closely in the Bay Area, both consider it no coincidence that a QB who nearly led the Niners to a Super Bowl victory is out of the league at age 30 after his decision to kneel in protest of racial inequality and social injustice during the national anthem fueled a debate that found its way to the White House.
Other NBA players, like Oklahoma City Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony, have also made the connection between Kaepernick’s cause and his current state of unemployment, but James’ voice carries a different weight, and he pulled no punches when speaking on the matter to ESPN:
Those who don’t support Kaepernick’s quest for equal rights among all Americans may claim that there is no conscious league-wide agreement to keep the QB out of a job, but rather a series of decisions by NFL teams not to sign him in an effort to avoid the distraction his presence might bring.
Except, this is a league where Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is now allegedlythreatening to oust commissioner Roger Goodell over a six-game suspension for star running back Ezekiel Elliott, who stands accused of domestic assault by his ex-girlfriend. How’s that for a distraction? And maybe LeBron’s hometown Cleveland Browns — they of the 0-10 record — could use Kaepernick to distract from a quarterback depth chart that currently features DeShone Kizer, Kevin Hogan and Cody Kessler.
“The only reason I could say he’s not on a team is because the way he took a knee,” added James. “That’s the only reason. I watch football every Sunday, every Thursday, every Monday night. I see all these quarterbacks — first-string, second-team, third-team quarterbacks — that play sometimes when the starter gets hurt or are starters that play. Kap is better than a lot of those guys. Let’s just be honest.”
James was echoing what everyone who has ever watched Kaepernick play football should understand and what Curry said in September: “He definitely should be in the NFL. If you’ve been around the NFL, the top 64 quarterbacks, and he’s not one of them? Then I don’t know what game I’m watching.”
James also credited Kaepernick when asked about his form of protest at media day before the season:
“I salute Colin Kaepernick for being as powerful as he was and being the one who had to fall on his sword, unfortunately,” James said in September. “I hate that, and I wish I owned an NFL team right now. I’d sign him today. But I don’t.”
And James went even further in his conversation with ESPN.com from Detroit’s Cass Tech High School:
“I’ve commended Kap, and for him to sacrifice everything for the greater good for everyone, for what he truly believed in, the utmost respect to him. Obviously he had a vision like Martin Luther King and like some of our all-time greats that people couldn’t see further than what they were doing at the point and time. And Muhammad Ali and things of that nature. When it’s something that’s new and it’s something that people are not educated about or don’t understand what your beliefs are all about, people are so quick to judge, and people are so quick to say that what you’re doing is wrong. For him to sacrifice the sport that he plays and to sacrifice the things he’s done his whole life because he knew what he believed in, I salute him. I salute and respect that.”
Kaepernick restructured his contract with the 49ers in October 2016, trading guaranteed money for the right to become a free agent the following summer, and he opted out of the final year of that new deal in March. He has reportedly not received a contract offer since. Meanwhile, Kaepernick has donated $900,000 of the $1 million he pledged to charities supporting social justice and racial equality.