As Viewers Take a Knee on NFL, Colin Kaepernick Gets Off the Bench Against the Bills

Eli Harold, Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid
The Associated Press

After starting off 1-4, the San Francisco 49ers made a quarterback change this week, going from Blaine Gabbert to Colin Kaepernick.

They want to improve their deep passing game, and feel the rocket-armed Kaepernick can do that.

“I think it’s important that we hit some of our downfield throws,” said 49ers offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins.

Once Kaepernick is done kneeling for the national anthem, we will see if he can improve the 49ers moribund passing attack.

Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem in the preseason because he refused “to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

He talks not about the “oppressed” black-on-black crime victims in Chicago, where nearly 600 people have been murdered this year. He refers to police brutality. A few recent high-profile cases of police officers shooting uncooperative black suspects serves as the impetus of Kaepernick’s movement. Other players followed the fashion: some by kneeling, others by making the “Black Power” fist.

Kaepernick doesn’t plan on stopping his protests anytime soon, and now that he’s starting, and on a bigger stage, and he should get even more media attention.

During his press conference this week, Kaepernick said, “At the end of the day the flag is just a piece of cloth and I am not going to value a piece of cloth over people’s lives. That’s just not something I can do, it’s not something I feel morally right doing and my character won’t allow me to do that.”

And his character doesn’t seem to care that he’s hurting the NFL, a league that allows him to make eight figures this year, a league that’s 75 percent black, and employs many African-American coaches, scouts, and front office executives. NFL TV ratings are down this year, and the anthem protests are considered one of the reasons. The Washington Post reported a 15 percent decline over the first five weeks of this season compared to the entirety of last year. So his “movement” is costing the NFL millions, and could end up costing people jobs, including African-Americans.

From a football standpoint, it remains to be seen if Kaepernick will help the reeling 49ers. While physically gifted, with great size, a strong arm, and excellent speed, Kaepernick really struggled in 2014-15, especially with reading defensive coverages.

He faces quite a challenge this week, against a Bills defense that has played three strong games in a row, in wins over the Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots, and Los Angeles Rams. The Bills field a very good secondary and boast an outstanding defense in the the red zone (inside the 20-yard-line), so Kaepernick could have a hard time in his first game back.

And who knows if Rex Ryan, a patriot sort whose late father Buddy was a Korean War hero, will send a few extra blitzes at Kaepernick to rough him up a little bit.