Washington (AFP) – Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose anthem kneeling protest became a major controversy, ditched the league’s planned private workout Saturday over liability waiver and transparency issues, instead holding a public session.
The mess figures to hurt the former San Francisco 49ers star’s chances of returning to the NFL for the first time since 2016, even though 25 clubs had sent representatives to watch Kaepernick’s session.
The NFL had planned a private workout at the Atlanta Falcons training facility, but Kaepernick representatives said about 30 minutes before its scheduled start that he was instead moving the workout to a nearby high school and postponing the start.
A statement from representatives of Kaepernick said he was concerned about “an unusual liability waiver that addresses employment-related issues” that the NFL wanted him to sign and that he wanted media to be able to observe and film his workout.
The NFL planned to videotape the event so all 32 teams — not only the 25 who sent player personnel executives — would have access to Kaepernick’s performance, which would include throwing to receivers and other quarterback drills.
The NFL, in a statement, expressed dismay that Kaepernick skipped the planned session.
“We are disappointed that Colin did not appear for his workout,” the NFL statement said.
“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.”
Kaepernick was an NFL star in 2016 when he began kneeling for pre-game playings of the US national anthem as a way of protesting racial inequality and social injustice. He opted out of his 49ers contract for free agency in 2017, but found no takers.
Later in 2017, US President Donald Trump began attacking NFL players who kneeled for the anthem, saying they should be fired and calling any such player a “son of a bitch.”
Trump painted the protest as an insult to the flag and the nation rather than the issues Kaepernick had championed.
Kaepernick had reached a settlement with the NFL over claims that owners were improperly keeping him out of the league when many teams over the past three seasons have needed a top passer due to injury or futility.
The NFL workout session was seen as a way to open the door for clubs to show interest without any team having to bear any possible criticism over bringing in Kaepernick for a tryout.