ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith doesn’t think Colin Kaepernick really wants to play football. Instead, Smith believes Kaepernick “wants to be a martyr.”
The ESPN host posted a Facebook rant blasting the free agent quarterback for canceling a scheduled workout for 25 NFL teams on Saturday at the Atlanta Falcons’ facility and moving it to a Georgia high school, so the media could see it. The NFL workout wasn’t open to the media. Only seven team representatives attended the high school workout.
“You see? He don’t wanna play. He wants to be a martyr. But, guess what? It ain’t working this time,” Smith said on Facebook.
Smith added: “You don’t want to work (in the NFL), you just want to make noise and control the narrative. It’s over, Colin Kaepernick’s aspiration for an NFL career. It is over.”
Kaepernick, a former San Francisco 49er, hasn’t played in the NFL since 2016, and believes he’s been blacklisted since he started the anthem kneeling movement. He sued the NFL for collusion and settled for an undisclosed amount.
Kaepernick’s close friend, Carolina safety Eric Reid, one of only two players still kneeling during the anthem before NFL games (the other is Houston receiver Kenny Stills), disagrees with Smith’s premise that Kaepernick “don’t want to play.”
“That’s nonsense,” Reid told ESPN’s David Newton. “The proof of the workout was to show he can play the game, was to show he can throw the ball, and he did that. The NFL wanted to control the narrative by not letting independent NFL media into the workout to document the workout.”
It’s rare that reporters are let into NFL free agent workouts.
Smith wonders why Kaepernick backed out of the NFL workout and moved it to a high school on Saturday, just a few hours before the workout, and not earlier in the week. The NFL announced the workout on Tuesday.
“This man wanted a chance, 25 teams show up in Georgia at the Atlanta Falcons practice facility, NFL personnel, equipment, video, everything,” Smith said. “What does Colin Kaepernick do? Not Tuesday, not Wednesday, not Thursday, not Friday, Saturday — three hours before the workout — because of some issue with a liability waiver — Colin Kaepernick wants to change the venue, Colin Kaepernick wants his own receivers, Colin Kaepernick wants to video things himself, Colin Kaepernick wants the media available.”
Reid says he understands why Kaepernick moved the workout and took more control of the proceedings.
“They wouldn’t even tell him who was going to run his routes for him,” said Reid, who attended the rescheduled workout. “They wouldn’t even give him a script for the workout. Is Colin supposed to trust an organization that has blackballed him? He’s not that naive.”
At the end of the high school workout, Kaepernick told the NFL teams to stop “running” from him.
“We’re waiting for the 32 owners, 32 teams, Roger Goodell, all of them to stop running,” Kaepernick said. “To stop running from the truth. To stop running from the people. We’re out here. We’re ready to play. We’re ready to go anywhere.”
In a social media battle with Reid on Sunday, Smith stood by his position that Kaepernick made a mistake cancelling the original NFL workout.
“I’m going to call it like I see it,” Smith posted on Instagram. “Kaepernick made a mistake the way he handled all this if he really wants a job in the NFL. Period.”