Colin Kaepernick's anthem protests lost shock value, likely a thing of the past

Colin Kaepernick is looking for work, after a season more memorable for what he did before the games than anything he did while in them. What he's not looking to do, according to multiple reports, is to continue his national anthem protest wherever he ends up.

Free-agent NFL quarterback has yet to land a job for next season

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Eli Harold, quarterback Colin Kaepernick, centre, and safety Eric Reid kneel during the national anthem before a game against the Dallas Cowboys in October. Kaepernick is still looking for employment next season, but isn't expected to continue his anthem protests. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/The Associated Press)

Colin Kaepernick is looking for work, after a season more memorable for what he did before the games than anything he did while in them.

What he's not looking to do, according to multiple reports, is to continue his national anthem protest wherever he ends up.

The more cynical might suggest those two things are related. And they just might be, though Kaepernick has yet to publicly explain why he's dropping a protest that got so much attention last season that some blamed him for a drop in NFL television ratings.

And just like that, the great national anthem protest movement appears dead.

It didn't live long, a few months at best. Several players followed Kaepernick's lead, but for the most part, they were a lot more preoccupied with keeping their day jobs than crusading for social reform.

For Kaepernick, it might also come down to employment. He opted out of his contract with the 49ers and is now a free agent, though there are indications he could return to the team under a different deal.

That the 49ers are in desperate need of a quarterback is common knowledge. It's also common knowledge that the 49ers — and the 31 other teams in the NFL — don't want players causing distractions with protests that are unpopular among most fans.

Mainstream takes notice

Kaepernick accomplished at least part of his goal by taking a knee to protest racial and social injustice. It was probably the only way he was going to cut through the clutter and get a mainstream audience to notice what he was doing.

But it was always going to be short-lived. The shock value wore off, and it lost its effectiveness. Other players who joined in for a week or two moved on to other things, like trying to remain employed.

To Kaepernick's credit, the protest was a small part of what he does. He took some of the money the 49ers paid him and donated $1 million US to help local charities through the Colin Kaepernick Foundation, and he has hosted "Know Your Rights" camps for underprivileged children in the Bay Area.

That Kaepernick has a right to protest is guaranteed in this country. That others have a right to vehemently disagree with his platform is also their right.

This was never Tommie Smith and John Carlos on an Olympic medal stand in Mexico City in 1968, a stance that reverberated throughout the nation. It won't be remembered a half century later as a landmark in the nation's history.

Indeed, one of Kaepernick's biggest mistakes was that he wasted the opportunity to fully articulate what he was seeking.

It became a vague thing, undefinable even for those looking for an answer. There was never going to be a clear-cut winner or loser, though it was clear that most NFL fans didn't like the idea of an anthem protest one bit.

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