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Three years later, readers still have strong feelings about Colin Kaepernick, anthem

John Romano: A suggestion that the Bucs should be interested in Kaepernick if he was still an NFL caliber quarterback was met with strong pushback by readers.
Feelings about Colin Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the national anthem three years ago are still running strong. Protesters showed up for a planned workout at the Falcons facility on Saturday. After disagreements with the NFL, the workout was later rescheduled by Kaepernick at a different locaction. [TODD KIRKLAND  |  AP]
Feelings about Colin Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the national anthem three years ago are still running strong. Protesters showed up for a planned workout at the Falcons facility on Saturday. After disagreements with the NFL, the workout was later rescheduled by Kaepernick at a different locaction. [TODD KIRKLAND | AP]
Published Nov. 19

TAMPA — And so the NFL career of Colin Kaepernick appears to be kaput. An argument could be made that this is exactly what the league and the quarterback wanted.

Neither side trusted the other to act in good faith in anticipation of his workout in Atlanta over the weekend, and so both contrived to make it as bitter as possible for the other.

The league tried to convince everyone that cloistered workouts prepared with almost no advance notice are a non-negotiable part of the landscape when, in truth, the NFL has turned its own scouting combine into a made-for-TV event every spring. And rather than acknowledge he was a prospective employee auditioning for a coveted job, Kaepernick used the audition to promote his image of a social renegade.

None of this was surprising. Kaepernick’s comeback after three years away from the game was a bit of a longshot anyway, and so both sides were more concerned about the PR/marketing fallout.

Related: RELATED: A case for exploring Colin Kaepernick in Tampa Bay

What was surprising to me was the public reaction. I wrote about Kaepernick’s workout before it turned into a circus, and suggested the Buccaneers should have interest if he demonstrated he still had NFL talent coming off a long layoff at age 32.

My point was that whether you supported or despised his decision to kneel during the national anthem, it was meant to focus the spotlight on racial injustice. And, as divided as we all seem to be these days, we should at least be able to acknowledge the viewpoint of others.

The reaction in my email box was swift and unusually united. Virtually everyone disagreed.

if the bucs pick this unamerican jerk, I will never watch a bucs game again!! he should first apology to the country for his stupid act.

That was not an uncommon response. Nor was it completely unjustified.

His decision to snub the NFL's front office and hold a workout on his own probably means Colin Kaepernick's football career has come to an end. [TODD KIRKLAND | AP]

If you believe Kaepernick has a right to point out social wrongs, then you must also believe that others have a right to disagree with his method of protest. That is, as long as it is done peacefully and respectfully.

And that seems to be the basis of most of the complaints against Kaepernick. It wasn’t what he was protesting, but rather the way he did it.

“Kneeling during the National Anthem insults and offends those who respect the flag. It represents all the good this country — and it’s citizens have done — over the past centuries.”

So, was Kaepernick wrong? No.

Does that mean the readers are wrong? No.

That dichotomy is what the anthem and the flag represent. It’s Kaepernick’s freedom to protest, and it’s the right of others to disagree. What was surprising to me is that the feelings are still so visceral three years later.

“If he wants to have a political opinion he has every right to it, on his own time. When he is in a team uniform, he is an employee of that team who gets to dictate what is allowable and what isn’t.”

As disingenuous as I believe the NFL acted while scheduling this workout, I do not disagree with this point. Kaepernick may have had a legal right to protest the anthem, but he knowingly and willingly risked his career by making a political/social statement while on the job.

Related: RELATED: Colin Kaepernick workout turns into chaotic, confusing day

He can say he was blackballed by the NFL, and he has a monetary settlement to prove it. But the truth is, every NFL team would be entirely justified if it decided the organization was better off without the headache of a high-profile employee who used his platform on the field to push an agenda.

No matter whether you agree or disagree with that agenda.

“People are not going to forget. Would you support a player wearing a MAGA hat on the sidelines? It’s against the nfl rules.”

At this point, the debate is largely theoretical. When Kaepernick refused to go along with the NFL’s demands and scheduled an alternative workout at a different location a couple of hours later, he pretty much sealed the deal. His career appears to be over.

And perhaps that is best for him. Nothing he would have done on the field would have the same societal impact as his political stances off the field. In that sense, his decision to cancel the NFL’s workout appears to be just as cunning as the league’s initial ploy to stage the event.

Meanwhile, the rest of us continue to argue about a pro athlete who took a knee in protest while everyone else stood in reverence.

“The flag is a symbol of unity and should be respected for what it represents. He could show his concerns in other arenas, not the flag. Too many lives and struggles have been waged to protect the flag. Disrespect is not the way.”

I tend to agree. Kaepernick’s method of protest, however heartfelt, was disrespectful and misguided.

On the other hand, I believe his freedom to protest is a much better example of America’s enduring strength than a flag.

John Romano can be reached at jromano@tampabay.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes

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