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The NFL orchestrated a sanctioned workout for blackballed quarterback Colin Kaepernick to take place at 3 p.m. on Saturday, November 16 in Atlanta, Georgia. Though much about the details felt suspect — such as scheduling the showcase on a Saturday instead of the typical Tuesday designated for such activities, and giving Colin just four days notice — many felt, or were at least hopeful, that this would pave the way for him to reclaim his rightful place in the league. However, things changed when Colin essentially rebuffed the opportunity to display his readiness to decision-makers from all 32 teams at the last minute, in favor of a self-organized open workout at a local high school that was attended by representatives from eight NFL franchises.

Colin’s agent said the reason for the change was a desire for transparency, as they wanted everyone, the media and “the people,” to see that the quarterback is prepared to play. The NFL would not agree to a public display, though the session would have been filmed. As a result of this, and issues with a liability waiver, Colin threw passes at a smaller venue with far fewer potential employers on hand than initially intended.

The peculiar thing here is that all involved parties were already aware that Colin can still play. We didn’t need to be convinced of this. Yet, only one group can give him a job as quarterback, and it’s not the media or the people. Colin reiterated his vigilance in stating that he’s been ready for the past three years, the length of time that he has been denied employment with the league. This fact has been supported by video evidence he’s shared of personal workouts demonstrating a fitness and talent level that remain exceptional. The changes he made reduced his supposed formal audition to nothing more than additional social media fodder.

Most interesting was Colin’s posture after the workout, as he told NFL owners and Commissioner Roger Goodell to “stop being scared.” Though this statement may reflect the true reason teams have shied away from the quarterback, after his kneeling during the national anthem in protest to racism and injustice ignited a firestorm of political controversy, none of us would say such a thing to an employer in the interview for a job we actually wanted. There was a hint of bravado in his demeanor, which led ESPN Analyst Steven A. Smith to question Colin’s motives. For the first time, his stance may have appeared a bit out of touch.

For better or worse, Colin has achieved heights of popularity even his NFL career did not afford. Grandmothers who’ve never watched the sport now know his name. He’s received endorsements and considerable support for his cause. Now, this dubious move has made it look to some as though he is the one with the agenda and looking for PR stunt opportunities. It certainly didn’t help quell the idea that his presence on any team would be too much of a distraction.

The move also let the NFL off the hook, painted the league in a more favorable light and allowed the opportunity for it to release this statement:

We are disappointed that Colin did not appear for his workout. He informed us of that decision at 2:30 p.m. today (day of workout) along with the public. Today's session was designed to give Colin what he has consistently said he wants — an opportunity to show his football readiness and desire to return to the NFL. Twenty-five (25) clubs were present for the workout, and all 32 clubs, their head coaches, general managers, and other personnel executives would have received video footage of the interview and workout, shot by the Atlanta Falcons video crew.

The NFL goes on to outline a litany of concessions and collaborative efforts it made on Colin’s behalf, including granting Nike permission to film a related commercial and working with several personnel groups to ensure the private workout occurred under ideal circumstances. In reading, it appears as though Colin’s team was unreasonable in their demands and not negotiating in good faith. This is what has led to the unfortunate turn in perception and the questioning of a man who has emphatically proven where he stands.

There is still reason to be optimistic if the NFL is serious about offering Colin a fair chance. Despite the confusion and disagreements, the result is the same. Though Colin’s talent was never the issue, there is video footage that every team can watch to confirm that it still warrants a spot on an NFL roster. The question has become, does he want it?

Colin could have just been acting out of anger or distrust. The NFL has handled him and the entire peaceful protest he initiated as poorly as possible. No one can blame him if there is a hesitance to play nice with the league that hung him out to dry. It would be understandable that his default reaction is defiance. Yet, a quote about cutting off your nose to spite your face comes to mind. 

I’ve used words such as “appear” when describing the position in which Colin may have placed himself because he’s earned every benefit of the doubt. He’s earned continued belief that his heart is in the right place, even if his course of action may seem misguided. He’s walked with and kneeled for those whose voices have gone unheard. Colin has deservedly been crowned the People’s Champion.

The people want to see Colin back in the NFL. We want to revel in the most meaningful comeback in sports history. We want to tell the story of how he stood for something, gave up everything and then fought to get it all back. With a return to where Colin’s skill set and work ethic show he belongs, the people will stand even taller. That’s the endgame.

Perhaps Colin views his purpose as something greater and has other plans for the remainder of his life, which he does not need anyone’s permission to pursue. However, there is now a sliver of not knowing. I think supporters are still with Kap. But is Kap still with us?