There are 1,696 players on active NFL rosters each season. The way things are going, Colin Kaepernick may not be one of them this year, but that hasn’t stopped people from buying his jersey. It’s ranked No. 39 on the NFLPA’s official NFL merchandise Top 50 list, according to Good Morning Football’s Peter Schrager.
The most common working theory for Kaepernick’s continued unemployment is that he’s being blackballed by owners who fear a negative fan response to his national anthem protests. Giants owner John Mara, who was slow to cut kicker Josh Brown despite a known history of domestic violence, claimed there was an outpouring of fan anger about last year’s national anthem protests like he had never seen.
“All my years being in the league, I never received more emotional mail from people than I did about that issue,” Mara said, via the MMQB. “If any of your players ever do that, we are never coming to another Giants game. It wasn’t one or two letters. It was a lot.”
But there are reasons to believe that owners’ fear of a negative fan response is irrational, starting with Kaepernick’s jersey sales.
There’s also the J.D. Power 2017 Fan Experience Survey, which comes out later this month. Of 9,200 people who participated in the survey, only 3 percent said that national anthem protests were a reason they watched fewer NFL games last season. Other reasons included (ahem, John Mara) the league’s poor handling of domestic violence issues, game delays, and election coverage.
There are plenty of other theories on why Kaepernick isn’t on a roster right now. Some people think it’s his vegan diet, or maybe his work in the community keeps him from being focused on football. Michael Vick said Kaepernick’s hair may be holding him back.
But we all know the reason. Kaepernick chose to use his platform to protest the oppression of minorities in America. He did it in a peaceful way, and he backed up his protest by dedicating tireless work and hundreds of thousands of dollars so far to various community initiatives.
Kaepernick has said that he won’t continue his national anthem protest this year. And he’s working with a trainer to make sure he’s in game shape. He has more experience and has achieved more in this league than quarterbacks like Josh McCown, Brian Hoyer, and Nick Foles, who are all on rosters right now.
The fear of fan backlash is a flimsy excuse. Kaepernick’s jersey sales demonstrate that he has plenty of fan support.