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How the 2016 NFL Season Defined Colin Kaepernick’s Career

Colin Kaepernick emerged as one of the NFL’s brightest stars after leading his team to a Super Bowl four and a half years ago. He was the breath of fresh air that the 49ers needed. One year after his decision to protest the inequality in America, Kaepernick remains unsigned and has recently sued the NFL and its owners for collusion. Here is a look back at how Colin Kaepernick went from star quarterback to outcast.

August 14th and 20th, 2016: Kaepernick missed the first two preseason games with an arm injury. During this time, he decided to sit on the bench during the national anthem, however it went unnoticed.

August 26th, 2016: In his preseason debut, Kaepernick again chose to sit for the national anthem. Jennifer Lee Chan of Niners Nation tweeted out a photo of Kaepernick sitting, which gained attention later that night. According to SBNation, Kaepernick told the media after the game that he sat because of the oppression of people of color and ongoing issues with police brutality. In a conversation with ESPN, Kaepernick said, “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look away. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” After that, the 49ers released a statement saying that honoring the flag is important to their organization but that they support American principles such as freedom of speech and expression, and will not keep players from protesting.

September 2nd, 2016: Colin Kaepernick made the 49ers roster as their backup quarterback, losing the starting position to Blaine Gabbert. Kaepernick also told the media that he would donate the first $1 million of his 2016 salary to various organizations.

October 7th, 2016: Kaepernick restructured his contract with the 49ers. The new deal removed the last four years of Kaepernick’s old contract and allowed him to opt out of it for 2018. This reworked contract eventually paved the way for Kaepernick to become a starter again. He was named the starter four days after on Oct. 11.

December 4th, 2016: After six straight losses, Kaepernick was benched by head coach Chip Kelly. Kaepernick was 1-for-5 with four yards and had been sacked five times when Kelly decided to take him out in the Week 13 game against the Bears. After the game, the first rumors of Kaepernick wanting to opt out of his contract for 2017 emerged.

December 24th and 30th, 2016: Kaepernick started for the 49ers in Week 16 and led a comeback victory over the Rams. He threw two touchdown passes, one rushing touchdown and ran in the game-winning two-point conversion to give the 49ers their first win in 13 games. On Dec. 30, Kaepernick won the Len Eshmont award, voted on by his teammates. According to NBCSports, the award is given to the player who “best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of Len Eshmont,” an original member of the 1946 49ers team.

March 2nd and 3rd, 2017: Kaepernick announced that he will stand during the national anthem in 2017. Sources told ESPN’s Adam Shefter that he would stop kneeling during the anthem because he didn’t want that to distract from the positive change he created with his protest in 2016. On Mar. 3, Kaepernick officially opted out of his contract with the 49ers, however the new general manager at the time, John Lynch, said that the team would have released him regardless.

July 27th 2017: After a deal falls through with the Seattle Seahawks, Kaepernick was still looking to join a team. During an appearance on the Mike and Mike Show, Adam Shefter said, “while some coaches and GM’s have expressed their interest in signing Kaepernick, certain owners are preventing it.” The Baltimore Ravens look into possibly signing Kaepernick after their starting quarterback, Joe Flacco, suffered a back injury.

September 1st, 2017: The Ravens lose interest in Kaepernick and he remains a free agent for the 2017 season.

October 15th, 2017: Six weeks into the 2017 season, Colin Kaepernick files a grievance with the NFL, claiming he is a victim of a group boycott by team owners punishing him professionally for his political views.

October 21st, 2017: states the Kaepernick’s collusion grievance against the NFL is already moving forward and heading into the discovery stage. Kaepernick’s legal team plans to ask that all owners and high-ranking officials turn over cell and email correspondence.

Colin Kaepernick’s decisions during the 2016 season were ones that will stay with him forever. Although his professional football career seems to be over, he is still making headlines and his acts of protest have started a movement in the NFL.


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Sophia Proctor

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