Depending on who you ask, there are several reasons Colin Kaepernick remains locked out of the NFL.

He's not in playing shape because of his vegan diet, he's asking for more money than his abilities justify, he's holding out for a starting quarterback job when few are available.

The problem is, based on the accounts of those who know, none of it is true. Kaepernick is in peak physical fitness, working out five days a week. He has not been in the position to request generous remuneration, because he's had no serious discussions with an NFL team, and for that same reason he has issued no ultimatums about his playing role.

So why has Kaepernick remained unsigned since leaving the San Francisco 49ers? Well, there is one potential explanation, and it's far less comfortable to consider than a lazy or greedy athlete demanding more than he deserves.


Kaepernick knew the risks when last season he opted to kneel during the national anthem, protesting the continued oppression of minorities in the United States, but his principles wouldn't allow him to stay standing and silent. Now his playing career is paying the price.

That's not to overstate Kaepernick's gifts on the gridiron: while the 29-year-old was once a transcendent talent, these days he is merely competent.

But, considering that being an NFL quarterback is the most difficult job in sport, considering there are only a dozen who would be considered genuinely irreplaceable and considering all 32 teams generally carry three quarterbacks, mere competency should essentially guarantee employment.

Competency, after all, has seen every other player of Kaepernick's calibre earn a contract. Hell, a few have landed a job despite displaying nothing but mediocrity.

But not Kaepernick. Instead, it's becoming increasingly clear he is being black-balled by the NFL.

Which is shameful but, unfortunately, not that surprising. Not after Kaepernick's peaceful form of protest was met with such sustained outcry from segments of white America.

The outraged reaction to Kaepernick taking a knee is the reason he's unemployed. While it would be reductive to say those in charge of personnel decisions are racist, many at the highest levels of NFL franchises care little for Kaepernick's politics. The rest seem to view the former 49er as more trouble than he's worth.

But that view is erroneous. Last season - when Kaepernick was much more of a "distraction" than he would be during the second season of any activism - the quarterback was honoured as San Francisco's most inspiring player by those who shared a locker room.


So if Kaepernick is not a distraction, if he's not wasting away due to his dietary commitments or asking for extra zeroes to be added to his pay, what is he?

He's a man who started a movement, a movement that spread across the United States, through various codes and multiple creeds. He's a man of his word, making good on a pledge to donate US$1 million of last season's salary to organisations working in oppressed communities.

And he's someone who's continued his philanthropy after the initial headlines, in March taking a plane full of food and water to assist in a drought-stricken Somalia, while also organising and running regular seminars aimed at improving the lives of black, brown and economically disadvantaged youth.

None of that should be enough to provide Kaepernick with employment; his charitable deeds are irrelevant compared to on-field performance. But he shouldn't be denied a job simply because of his character.