Donald Trump was no fan of NFL players kneeling for the national anthem when Colin Kaepernick led the movement in 2016, reiterating his stance on Twitter as recently as last week. However, the climate has changed considerably with George Floyd’s death proving to be a breaking point for Americans fed up with systemic racism and widespread police brutality, particularly against African Americans.
The NFL had effectively banned kneeling, but that figures to change in 2020 with Adrian Peterson, Baker Mayfield, J.J. Watt among many stars expected to kneel in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Kaepernick, once considered a pariah for his outspoken views on social matters, has also been embraced with commissioner Roger Goodell “encouraging” teams to sign the ex-49er.
In remarks made earlier this week, United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson expressed optimism that the president would eventually come around on kneeling, promising to “work with him” on the issue. Trump, who mandated police reforms in an executive order passed Tuesday, was asked if he thought Kaepernick deserved a second NFL opportunity. “If he deserves it, he should,” said Trump in response to a question posed by Scott Thuman of ABC7 in Washington D.C. “If he has the playing ability. He started off great and then he didn’t end up very great as a player. He was terrific in his rookie year and I think he was very good in his second year, then something happened, so his playing wasn’t up to snuff.”
Trump’s surprisingly diplomatic answer would suggest Carson has indeed gotten through to the president on protecting players’ right to protest in a peaceful manner. Kaepernick’s decision to kneel for the national anthem in 2016—which was also the last time he graced an NFL roster with his presence—was mistakenly construed as anti-military when, in fact, the former Niners QB actually consulted Army Green Beret Nate Boyer, who recommended kneeling as the most respectful form of protest.
“I would love to see him get another shot,” said Trump. “But obviously he has to be able to play well.” Kaepernick was hung out to dry despite a promising performance at his showcase in Atlanta last fall, but many in the know, including Peter King of NBC Sports, are confident Kap will make his return to the gridiron in some capacity this year.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll hinted last week that Kaepernick may already have a suitor while Chargers bench boss Anthony Lynn has also been complementary of the former second-round pick, suggesting the 32-year-old could be in the team's plans at some point. “He fits the style of quarterback that we want. We’re happy with the three quarterbacks we have, but you can never have enough on the runway.”