Colin Kaepernick, who last played professional football in 2016 — the year he started kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice — worked out Wednesday for the Las Vegas Raiders, a league source told ESPN.
It marked Kaepernick’s first workout with an NFL team since being exiled, and it was the first time the former star quarterback visited with a team since he flew to Seattle to meet with the Seahawks in May 2017, before they passed on the opportunity to sign him.
Kaepernick played at the University of Nevada, Reno, the only school to offer him a scholarship. Currently, the pro team in Nevada is the only one in the NFL that has given the civil rights activist another opportunity.
Raiders owner Mark Davis is following in the spirit of his late father, Al Davis, who provided many opportunities, such as hiring the NFL’s first Black head coach (Art Shell) and its first woman chief executive (Amy Trask) in the modern era. The elder Davis also was the first team owner to draft a Black quarterback (Eldridge Dickey) in the first round and the second team owner to hire a Hispanic head coach, Tom Flores.
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The NFL had said it encouraged teams to take a look at Kaepernick. But not only has Kaepernick not signed a contract with any team, he also hasn’t received a workout until the one he had Wednesday.
Mark Davis told ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez in June 2020 that he would give his “blessing” if the Raiders’ front office or coaches wanted to add Kaepernick.
Derek Carr is the starting quarterback for the Raiders, who also traded for backup Jarrett Stidham earlier this month in a deal with the New England Patriots. Las Vegas also has quarterback Nick Mullens, who signed with the Raiders this offseason.
Kaepernick, 34, recently threw to undrafted receivers for NFL scouts at halftime of Michigan’s spring game, at the invitation of Jim Harbaugh, his former coach with the San Francisco 49ers.
Another potential link to Kaepernick is Raiders offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi, who was a 49ers assistant from 2013 to 2016.
In an interview with the “I Am Athlete” podcast in April, Kaepernick noted that both of his former Niners coaches, Harbaugh and Chip Kelly, said he “made the locker room better,” contrasting a narrative that he would be a distraction for any team that signs him.
“That 2016 season, my last year, my teammates voted me most courageous and inspirational player,” Kaepernick said. “So, when you’re talking about the people that are in the building, that has never come out that I’ve been a distraction. That’s never come out that I’ve been an issue for the people I’ve played with.”
Kaepernick also said in the interview that today’s NFL should be more “in alignment” with his social views, given the league’s stance on other matters pertaining to race relations in the United States.
“You have ‘End Racism’ in the back of your end zone. You have ‘Black Lives Matter’ on your helmet. Everything I’ve said should be in alignment with what you’re saying publicly,” he said. “It’s a $16 billion business. When I first took a knee, my jersey went to No. 1. When I did the deal with Nike, their value increased by $6 billion. Six billion. With a B.
“So if you’re talking about the business side, it shows [it’s] beneficial. If you’re talking about the playing side, come in, let me compete. You can evaluate me from there. The NFL’s supposed to be a meritocracy. Come in, let me compete. If I’m not good enough, get rid of me. But let me come in and show you.”
Kaepernick said he ultimately wants to win a championship after coming close with the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, during which San Francisco fell one play short in a 34-31 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in February 2013.
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