Colin Kaepernick’s collusion lawsuit with the league concluded last week with a settlement and now the quarterback can once again try to play the game he loves. Kaepernick has been out of football since the 2016 season, widely believed to be because he kneeled during the National Anthem. Turns out, Kaepernick saw this coming.
Former San Francisco 49ers linebacker Michael Wilhoite discussed the circumstances of when Kaepernick’s protest began on his podcast. As you may remember, all it took was a photograph in the 2016 preseason to blow this thing into a media wildfire. Many know that there were meetings and Kaepernick explaining himself, but what’s very powerful was that Kaepernick knew what his protest may lead to as he warned Wilhoite of the consequences of kneeling alongside him. Wilhoite tells a long narrative of the circumstances and Kaepernick’s near-prophetic prediction that kneeling could derail someone’s career.
Here’s the entire story below from Wilhoite (head to the 6:23 mark to listen):
“Let me tell you all a conversation I had with Kaepernick when this all happened, when he decided to take a knee. First of all, just so everybody knows, I’m sure most people do know, but he sat the first couple games. Before anybody ever made it an issue, anybody ever talked about it, Colin Kaepernick sat down during the first two preseason games during the National Anthem. Well, before the last game where we played in San Diego at that time, they were still the San Diego Chargers, he had a conversation with a—I don’t know the man’s name—but it was a longstanding former veteran of service and had a conversation with Kaepernick and he told Kaepernick, ‘Hey, why don’t you instead of sitting, take a knee in order to show your respects for the veterans. We don’t want the veterans or the Army or people in service to feel like you’re taking a shot at them but that you’re really doing what you’re saying and that’s taking a shot at social injustices.’
“And so he did that. He took that advice and he took a knee. He showed that I’m willing to listen to other people. I’m willing to listen to another man and take his advice and take a knee.
“So, with all that being said, it became a huge media thing. It came out in the media. Well, obviously we have a team of 53 guys. We have a lot of guys with a lot of opinions and perspectives. So the next week at team meeting—kudos to Chip Kelly and credit to him—he let Colin Kaepernick stand up in a team meeting and explain why he took a knee, explain why it was important to him and why he was taking this stance. So after he did that, a lot of the guys in the room had a lot more respect for Colin Kaepernick and Chip Kelly and for Kap for standing up and saying, ‘Hey, this is the reason why I’m taking a knee.’ I don’t remember his exact words, but it was based on the social injustices. It was based on all of these men and women of African American culture getting killed by white police officers. And he felt some type of way about that, and felt like something needed to be done, somebody needed to say something, somebody needed to take a stance, and that was his opportunity to do it.
“And for all those people that say, ‘That’s not the platform,’ what is the platform? What is the platform where you make a stance that is so powerful we’re talking about it now, today? That everybody in the world talked about it. And talked about it with intent with feeling, with rage, with happiness, with joy — that was why he did it then. And if he would have did it any other way—not saying there is no other way—but that was the way he knew he could get your attention. He could get all of our attention. And guess what? He got it and he still has it. And not only does he have it, but the issues that he took the knee for have everybody’s attention and that was the point of him doing it.
“Fast forward, let me get back to what I was saying about the conversation I had with him. So after that team meeting, in the team meeting he invited everybody individually, he said, ‘If anybody in this room feels that strongly about it like I do and wants to have a conversation with me, please come to me and have that conversation. I would love to talk to you guys about it. I know there’s guys in here that disagree with it, I know there’s guys here that don’t want this attention on the team, please come talk to me and we’ll have a conversation. I’ll tell you my views and I’ll listen to your views.’
“So I, myself, had a conversation with him, at that lunch. And we talked, and I said I was thinking about doing it with him. I was thinking about taking a knee, as well with him. And he looked at me and said, ‘Just know that if you are willing to do that, you might not play in this league ever again.’ He knew that then. He knew that then!
“And when he said it to me, he said, ‘Mike, I would never implore you to do that, advise you to do that because I don’t know what your financial situation is like, I don’t know what you are willing to risk or give up in order to make this stance. But for me, I’m willing to give that all up. Because this is what’s most important to me. This is what means the most to me. Beyond football.’
“And football is a great game and everybody loves football, but there are bigger things in life than football. And kudos to Colin Kaepernick for seeing that and realizing that at that time.
“And I just wanted to share that conversation because it’s powerful to know that he knew in the beginning that this could be something that ends his career, his dream, what he had worked his whole life to accomplish.
Kaepernick’s attorney predicted a return to the NFL and narrowed possible destinations to three teams. If Kaepernick will find his way back into the NFL is yet to to be written. Eric Reid stood and signed a three-year deal with the Carolina Panthers, but that took an awful lot of work to secure. If Wilhoite had joined Kaepernick in kneeling, he may not have been as fortunate.