Quarterback Alex Smith recently discussed his former teammate, Colin Kaepernick on the "10 Questions With Kyle Brandt" podcast, this past week. Smith spoke on various topics, such as his time with Washington and the comeback from the 2018 leg injury that nearly ended his career.
But nothing got more attention than the opinions he shared about Colin Kaepernick, his former teammate in San Francisco. Kaepernick himself became a polarizing point of discussion ever since he began kneeling in 2016, during the playing of the U.S. National Anthem, before every NFL kickoff. This was done strictly as a silent protest against police brutality and excessive killings of unarmed African-Americans, an issue that still exists throughout the United States today.
Effects of the protest both on and off the field
The act of Kaepernick's silent protest seemed to have caused divisions throughout the league and its fanbase. His actions were met largely with boos and even more extreme responses like death threats. His protests were accused of being "unamerican."
Even fellow players, both in his own locker room and throughout the league, received his commitment to protesting with mixed emotions. Smith gave his own personal opinion on what he thought of his former teammate and the backlash he's still currently receiving.
"To see the backlash that happened, yeah, it hurts... he suffered the repercussions with his job and then how brave he was. He lost his livelihood," Smith said.
Kaepernick had played as the 49ers starting quarterback since 2012 until his contract ran out in 2016. Smith and Kaepernick were both quarterbacking for the 49ers in 2011 and 2012. Smith had been the main starter there ever since being drafted 1st overall by the 49ers in 2005. The starting job then went to Kaepernick, as the team went on a run to Super Bowl XLVII, losing to the Ravens. The next season, Smith was traded to the Chiefs, leaving the team to Kaepernick.
The backlash faced by Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick was an unrestricted free agent after his contract expired, however, not a single team showed even moderate interest in signing him to a new contract.
He missed out on the entire 2017 season and filed a grievance against the NFL, accusing them of systematically colluding to keep him from playing football. This is widely believed to be in retaliation for his political views and silent protests before games.
Throughout his "exodus" from the league, Kaepernick has remained very vocal in his crusade for social justice and racial equality, donating his time and money to socially beneficial charities and causes. As far as playing football is concerned, he had not had a formal team tryout session until a league-wide workout was set up in November of 2019.
It was poorly received after scouts from only 7 teams appeared. He and the NFL couldn't agree to publicity and other legal-related issues, leading to an impromptu workout session that was ultimately video recorded. Colin Kaepernick is currently under an endorsement deal with Nike, since 2018.