A lot of people in this country hate Colin Kaepernick.
But they shouldn’t project their feelings by counting his 49ers teammates to that group.
The dominant narrative after the 49ers quarterback’s protest of the national anthem exploded nationwide was that his actions would divide the locker room.
But this season has been defined by Kaepernick proving those people wrong — off the field, at least. When he became a national spectacle, the common refrain was, “Why don’t you do something beyond protesting?” Kap responded by pledging $1 million to organizations that would help the cause of equality.
Now, his teammates voted him the recipient of the Len Eshmont Award, which the Niners describe as “given to the 49er who best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of Len Eshmont, an original member of the 1946 49ers team.”
His naysayers won’t be deterred, of course. Kaepernick has gone 1-9 as a starter. But if you’re placing the blame solely on Kaepernick for the team’s failed season, you weren’t watching the games.
He wasn’t great, but asking a running quarterback to overcome a historically bad defense isn’t a reasonable ask. And that’s before considering the fact who his top receivers are and how injured his offensive line has been.
What’s next for Kaepernick is uncertain. He can opt out of the last year of his contract, and all signs lead to him doing exactly that — unless you believe he really sold his house in San Jose as an investment decision and that he was willing to renegotiate a deal with rich injury protections from the goodness of his heart. It’s no secret that he and general manager Trent Baalke have had a chilly relationship for years. You just have to wonder who will be on their way out of Santa Clara first.
If Kaepernick does decide he’s done with the 49ers organization, it might be the last decision he makes as an NFL player, because it’s hard to picture another team taking a chance on him when you think about what ownership and front offices look like. You might not believe this, but there aren’t a lot of socialism-sympathizing pro sports owners.
He deserves another shot as a backup quarterback, because most of them in the league are much worse than he is. If you don’t believe me, watch Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matt Cassel play today.
When he doesn’t get it, the country should accept that there was a point behind his protest all along.