LOOK: Colin Kaepernick is on the cover of GQ's Men of the Year issueâ€‹
Colin Kaepernick hasn’t played in an NFL game in 317 days but he’s now more (in)famous than ever because he was the first player to kneel for the national anthem to protest social injustice. The movement has grown in the months since, thanks, in part, to an unlikely source: President Donald Trump, who referred to kneeling players as “ ” during a September speech that widened the partisan divide on the issue nationally, but also served to strengthen the resolve of NFL players who protested en masse in the days following Trump’s remarks.
Kaeperick was on the GQ cover in 2013 for completely different reasons: He was one of the NFL’s best young players. Four years later and a lot has changed. From the GQ editors:
When we began discussing this GQ cover with Colin earlier this fall, he told us the reason he wanted to participate is that he wants to reclaim the narrative of his protest, which has been hijacked by a president eager to make this moment about himself. But Colin also made it clear to us that he intended to remain silent. As his public identity has begun to shift from football star to embattled activist, he has grown wise to the power of his silence. It has helped his story go around the world. It has even provoked the ire and ill temper of Donald Trump. Why talk now, when your detractors will only twist your words and use them against you? Why speak now, when silence has done so much?
But others have taken up Kaepernick’s cause, including former teammate Eric Reid, who has continued his anthem protest this season.
“My goal this year has been to get the narrative back on track,” Reid told GQ. “We started having communications with the NFL, and they said they’re going to help us make progress on these issues. But the next step is to get Colin back in the NFL. Because he’s the one that started this. I think we’re finally getting where me and Colin envision this going. Now it’s time for him to get back in the league.
“These issues are real, and people know they’re real. But some will do anything to distract from that, to change the narrative, and it’s gotten Colin blackballed from the NFL. The Bible talks very explicitly in Proverbs about being the voice of the voiceless and speaking up for the vulnerable. Another verse is: “Faith without works is dead.” I guess selfishly I’m trying to get to heaven.”
Reid isn’t alone in his protests or wanting to see Kaepernick play again. In October, Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said that any negotiation between the league and its players as it relates to the anthem after an NFL team signs Kaepernick.
“I think the first step to even being able to even have a conversation is to make sure that Colin Kaepernick gets an opportunity to play in the NFL,” Bennett said at the time. “I think before we even negotiate anything about whether we sit or whether we stand should be a negotiation about opening up the doors for Colin Kaepernick and give him an opportunity again, because I feel like through everything that’s been lost, I think all of us are having opportunities to be able to speak to our employers, but to think about the guy who started everything not to be able to have a voice at this moment, it just doesn’t seem very right to me.”
Despite the demand for starting-caliber NFL quarterbacks outstripping supply, Kaepernick remains a free agent.