LOS ANGELES, United States, Jun 10 – New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins called on the NFL to apologise to Colin Kaepernick on Tuesday, saying recent expressions of contrition would be meaningless while the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback remained isolated from the sport.
Jenkins, one of the founding members of the NFL’s Players Coalition, which works to reform the US criminal justice and education systems, said the NFL had still yet to properly address Kaepernick’s case.
Kaepernick was the first NFL player to begin protesting in 2016, refusing to stand for the US national anthem as a way of drawing attention to racial injustice and police brutality.
The 49ers star was subsequently released by the team in early 2017 and has not played in the NFL since, later alleging he had been blackballed by the league.
In a stunning U-turn On Friday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the league had botched its handling of player protests and vowed to support peaceful protests in future, although he did not mention Kaepernick.
Jenkins said on Tuesday the failure to acknowledge Kaepernick by name, and the fact that the 32-year-old remained unemployed, were marks against the NFL.
“I still don’t think [the NFL has] gotten it right,” Jenkins told CBS’s “This Morning” program.
“Until they apologise, specifically, to Colin Kaepernick, or assign him to a team, I don’t think that they will end up on the right side of history.
“At the end of the day, (the NFL have) listened to their players, they’ve donated money, they’ve created an Inspire Change platform; they’ve tried to do things up to this point.
– ‘His protest is heard’ –
“But it’s been one player in particular that they have ignored and not acknowledged, and that’s Colin Kaepernick.
“That’s the only thing people want to hear. If it’s not going to correct that or acknowledge that, then everything else doesn’t need to be said.”
Jenkins comments were backed by Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan who told a conference call on Tuesday that Kaepernick should be given a chance to win a spot back on an NFL roster.
“As far as Colin being back in the league, I think he should have every opportunity to,” Ryan said.
“His protest is being heard at this point. It might have taken too long, but I think he should have every opportunity to have a job and to have a spot in this league.”
Kaepernick was also name-checked on Tuesday at the Houston funeral of George Floyd, whose death at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis on May 25 sparked the protests against systemic racism and police brutality that have swept across the United States in the weeks since.
Civil rights leader Al Sharpton said in a eulogy that Kaepernick deserved the opportunity to resurrect his career.
“It’s nice to see some people change their mind. The head of the NFL said ‘Yeah, maybe we was wrong. Football players, maybe they did have the right to peacefully protest,’” Sharpton said, referring to Goodell’s statement.
“Well, don’t apologise, give Colin Kaepernick his job back. Don’t come with some empty apology. Take a man’s livelihood, strip a man down of his talents, and four years later when the whole world is watching, all of a sudden you go and do a Facetime, talking about you’re sorry?
“You’re sorry? Then repay the damage you did to the career you stood down, because when Colin took a knee, he took it for the families in this building. And we don’t want an apology, we want him repaired.”