Colin Kaepernick says he badly wants to play in the NFL again as he gives first on-camera in years

Colin Kaepernick said his decision to take a during the national anthem proved profitable for the NFL and the industry overall, arguing against prior claims from league executives that hiring him would be ‘bad for business’.

‘When I first took a knee my jersey went to number one. When I did the deal with Nike their value increased by $6billion,’ the former 49ers quarterback said during an exclusive interview with I Am Athlete released Monday. ‘So if, you’re talking about the business side, it shows beneficial. If you’re talking about the playing side, come in, let me compete, you can evaluate me from there.’

He added: ‘The NFL is 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.’

The athlete, who spearheaded the movement of athletes kneeling during the national anthem by being the first to take a knee in September 2016, hasn’t played in the league since January 1, 2017. 

He opted out of his contract with the 49ers in March 2017, but was not selected by any team as a free agent. Shortly afterwards, Kaepernick filed a grievance with the NFL the league’s 32 team owners colluded to keep him off the field due to his kneeling and acts of protest. Kaepernick and the NFL settled in 2019.

While the exact specifics surrounding the end Kaepernick’s NFL career have not been publicly detailed, a former league executive in 2020 alleged no one would hire the quarterback because the controversy caused by his protests was ‘bad for business’.  

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick reveals he’s desperate to return to the NFL nearly six years after he became the first athlete to take a knee during the national anthem

Kaepernick hasn't played in the league since the 2016 season when he first took a knee to protest racially inequality and police brutality. He is pictured on Sept. 1, 2016, the first time he knelt during the national anthem

Kaepernick hasn’t played in the league since the 2016 season when he first took a knee to protest racially inequality and police brutality. He is pictured on Sept. 1, 2016, the first time he knelt during the national anthem

During his interview with I Am Athlete, Kaepernick, 34, admitted his act of protest has drastically impacted his career and is asking franchises and team managers to see him as a ‘no distractions, team player’. 

‘The narrative that was out there was, oh, you know it’s going to be a media circus. What else comes with him?’ he said.

However, the athlete argued that nothing he has said or done goes against the messages the league is trying to promote.

‘You have end racism on the back of your end zone. You got Black Lives Matter on your helmet. Everything I said should be in alignment with what you’re saying publicly,’ Kaepernick stated.

He also alleged he has a proven track record of success on and off the field, trying to dispute allegations that adding him to a team’s roster would be a distraction. 

‘My coach Jim Harbaugh spoke to it. My coach Chip Kelly spoke to it and said I made the locker room better. I came in, I prepared, I made the team better,’ he said. ‘That 2016 season, my last year, my teammates voted me the most courageous and inspirational player.’

‘So when you’re talking about the people that are actually in the building that has never come out that I’ve been a distraction. It’s never come out that I’ve been an issue from the people I played with.’

Colin Kaepernick said his decision to take a during the national anthem proved profitable for both the NFL and Nike. He told I Am Athlete: ‘When I first took a knee my jersey went to number one. When I did the deal with Nike their value increased by $6billion. So if, you’re talking about the business side, it shows beneficial'

Colin Kaepernick said his decision to take a during the national anthem proved profitable for both the NFL and Nike. He told I Am Athlete: ‘When I first took a knee my jersey went to number one. When I did the deal with Nike their value increased by $6billion. So if, you’re talking about the business side, it shows beneficial’

Kaepernick, who led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013, was the first athlete to take a knee to protest racially inequality and police brutality.

His controversial act of protest inspired many athletes to kneel during the national anthem and was an icon for the Black Lives Matter movement. However, his activism wasn’t well received by all and sparked a heated nationwide debate, which included some of his own fans setting fire to his jersey.

In wake of the controversy, the NFL in 2018 issued a ruling prohibiting players from sitting or taking a knee during the singing or playing of The Star-Spangled Banner before games. Although the ruling has not ever been formally rescinded, no player has been disciplined for taking a knee and, in 2020, league commissioner Roger Goodell promised to support players who peacefully protest. 

His protests gained the attention of then-President Donald Trump who even called on NFL owners to fire any player who would kneel during the national anthem. 

‘No teams wanted to sign a player – even one as talented as Kaepernick – whom they saw as controversial, and, therefore, bad for business,’ CNN political analyst Joe Lockhart said in 2020. He was the NFL’s vice president of communications when Kaepernick ignited the social justice movement across the sports industry.

‘Colin Kaepernick was not bounced by NFL team owners because of his skill. He was not bounced because of salary demands. And he was not bounced because he wanted a starting job. No, he was rejected by NFL team owners because he became a financial liability, kneeling for social justice and igniting a telling firestorm with President Donald Trump,’ Lockhart said, according to Yahoo Sports.   

Kaepernick, speaking exclusively with I Am Athlete, said he is 'absolutely' and 'without question' ready to make his league comeback, noting he has had 'five years of training behind the scenes to make sure I'm ready at the highest level'

Kaepernick, speaking exclusively with I Am Athlete, said he is ‘absolutely’ and ‘without question’ ready to make his league comeback, noting he has had ‘five years of training behind the scenes to make sure I’m ready at the highest level’

Although is professional career has been on hold since January 2017, Kaepernick argued during the I Am Athlete interview that his passion for the game and desire to play in the NFL still burns.

‘I’ve had that dreams since I was a kid. I’m going to be an NFL player – and win the Super Bowl,’ he said. ‘For me, I’ve got unfinished business on that front.’

Kaepernick said he is ‘absolutely’ and ‘without question’ ready to make his league comeback after having not thrown a pass in the pros since January 1, 2017. 

‘That’s five years of training behind the scenes to make sure I’m ready at the highest level,’ Kaepernick said during a candid interview following a training session with former NFL wide receivers Chad Johnson and Brandon Marshall.

‘You don’t do that if you don’t have a passion and believe you’ll find a way on that field,’ he added. ‘I know I have to find my way back in. If I have to come in as a back-up, that’s fine. That’s not where I’m staying.’

Kaepernick ended up on the USA Today Best Seller list for his children's book, I Color Myself Different, which was published earlier this month

Kaepernick ended up on the USA Today Best Seller list for his children’s book, I Color Myself Different, which was published earlier this month

While Kaepernick hasn’t been playing in the pros, the quarterback has remained busy.

He rolled out a new Netflix series, titled Colin in Black and White, which recounts his formative years navigating issues of race, class and culture, while also aspiring to be a great athlete.

He also starred in a lucrative Nike advertisement and ended up on the USA Today Best Seller list for his children’s book, I Color Myself Different, which was published earlier this month. 

The book, inspired by the events of Kaepernick’s own life, is about ‘self-discovery, staying true to one’s self, and advocating for change’ even as a child. 

Also earlier this month, he participated in a throwing exhibition in front of several NFL scouts at halftime during the University of Michigan’s Spring Game.

He threw passes to eight free agent and draft-eligible receivers during halftime on April 2. He had also participated in two Michigan practices and was named an honorary captain for the spring game. 

Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara told M Live after the exhibition: ‘I’ve thrown with him a couple times this week, and dude’s got a rocket. He can sling it for sure. He’s been nothing but respectful to me.’ 

Kaepernick was invited by Wolverines Head Coach Jim Harbaugh to participate in the event. Harbaugh had coached Kaepernick when both were with the 49ers.

Kaepernick, on April 2, participated in a throwing exhibition in front of several NFL scouts at halftime during the University of Michigan's Spring Game

Kaepernick, on April 2, participated in a throwing exhibition in front of several NFL scouts at halftime during the University of Michigan’s Spring Game

He threw passes to eight free agent receivers during halftime on April 2. He also participated in two Michigan practices and was named an honorary captain for the spring game

He threw passes to eight free agent receivers during halftime on April 2. He also participated in two Michigan practices and was named an honorary captain for the spring game

Kaepernick, who has been unable to find a team to sign him since 2017, was among the first players to kneel during the pregame playing of the U.S. national anthem to protest police brutality.

The 34-year-old drew renewed interest in the summer of 2020 when the NFL expressed it would welcome Kaepernick back, but left the decision up to its member clubs to sign him. No team has opted to do so. 

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said in March that he had recently spoken with Kaepernick, who expressed an interest in another chance to be a quarterback in the NFL.

However, Carroll cautioned at the time that if Kaepernick got that opportunity it may not be in Seattle, but said: ‘I think he does somewhere.’ 

‘I don’t know if it’s here. I don’t know where it is. I don’t know if it’s even in football. I don’t know,’ Carroll said. ‘People get a second opportunity in their lifetime … and they can make the most of it if they’re ready for it. 

‘I don’t mean to send out any mixed messages about that. But I wanted you to understand that that’s how serious this is. It’s second chance time.’

Kaepernick has also seemingly been training with former and current pro-footballers.

He posted to social media in March in search of wide receivers to throw with, an offer taken up by Seattle wide receiver Tyler Lockett. 

Lockett had caught passes from the quarterback just days before Carroll made his remarks about second chances. 

Kaepernick, who has been unable to find a team to sign him since 2017, was among the first players to kneel during the pregame playing of the U.S. national anthem to protest police brutality. He is pictured kneeling alongside two of his former 69ers teammates

Kaepernick, who has been unable to find a team to sign him since 2017, was among the first players to kneel during the pregame playing of the U.S. national anthem to protest police brutality. He is pictured kneeling alongside two of his former 69ers teammates

His controversial act of protest sparked a heated nationwide debate, which included some of his own fans setting fire to his jersey

His controversial act of protest sparked a heated nationwide debate, which included some of his own fans setting fire to his jersey

Kaepernick has played in 69 games in his NFL career. He took over as the 49ers starting quarterback in the 2013 season and led San Francisco to a Super Bowl appearance (pictured). The 49ers fell to the Baltimore Ravens 34 to 31 in the championship match

Kaepernick has played in 69 games in his NFL career. He took over as the 49ers starting quarterback in the 2013 season and led San Francisco to a Super Bowl appearance (pictured). The 49ers fell to the Baltimore Ravens 34 to 31 in the championship match

Kaepernick has played in 69 games in his NFL career. He was selected by the 49ers in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

He played sparingly with the team during his rookie season and was named as a starter by Harbaugh, who was the team’s head coach at the time, halfway through the 2012 season.

The quarterback recorded a 5-2 record during his starting season and led the team to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Baltimore Ravens 34 to 31. 

He had another successful season in 2013, leading the 49ers to another playoff appearance. The team did not make it to the Super Bowl that season. However, Kaepernick was offered a six-year contract extension worth up to $126million. 

Harbaugh left the 49ers in 2014 to coach at the University of Michigan. The team struggled under new coach Jim Tomsula, pulling a 8-8 record.

Kaepernick was injured during the 2015 season, appearing in only nine games, and lost his starting job ahead of the 2016 season.

Although he eventually regained his starting position during the 2016 season, Kaepernick only had a 1-10 record as a starter that year. He also spearheaded the controversial kneeling protest.

Kaepernick, who opted out of his contract in 2017, has suggested his social justice movement was a key reason he has not been signed by any NFL team.

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