The day before the Cavaliers are set to take on the Pistons in Detroit, LeBron James talked to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin about Colin Kaepernick. James, who said he wished he owned an NFL team back in September so he could sign Kaepernick, elaborated on his support for the quarterback.
James said via McMenamin that he felt Kaepernick had been blackballed from the NFL, strictly because he had taken a knee during the national anthem:
“I love football, but I'm not part of the NFL," James told McMenamin after Cavs practice Sunday. "I don't represent the NFL. I don't know their rules and regulations. But I do know Kap is getting a wrong doing, I do know that. Just watching, he's an NFL player. He's an NFL player and you see all these other quarterbacks out there and players out there that get all these second and third chances that are nowhere near as talented as him. It just feels like he's been blackballed out of the NFL. So, I definitely do not respect that.”
“The only reason I could say he's not on a team is because the way he took a knee," James said. "That's the only reason. I watch football every Sunday, every Thursday, every Monday night. I see all these quarterbacks -- first-string, second-team, third-team quarterbacks -- that play sometimes when the starter gets hurt or are starters that play. Kap is better than a lot of those guys. Let's just be honest.”
49ers safety Eric Reid, who wrote an op-ed in The New York Times earlier this year, explained that he and Kaepernick were protesting “systemic oppression against people of color, police brutality and the criminal justice system.” However, many have mistaken the protest as anti-military, anti-flag, and anti-country.
Last week, Kaepernick was named GQ’s “Citizen of the Year.” His cover was shared by James on Instagram:
The endorsement from one of the greatest NBA players to ever grace a floor — between the Instagram post and his comments on Sunday — is big.
“I mean, s---, when you're born black you're faced with discrimination,” James said. “It just comes with the territory. So our whole life we're just trying to figure out ways how we can represent our family, represent us, be as powerful as we can be not only as African-American males, but African-American women as well. That's why we're so strong and that's why we're so prideful about what we believe in because when we're born, we're already born behind the eight ball. When you're born African-American, you always got to do things more than the norm just because you're black. So when you go through that, you got to understand that. And me being African-American myself and raising an African-American family and having African-American people around me all the time, we understand that we have to work even extra hard because there's just always a 'prove' thing. We always got to try to prove ourselves.”
Kaepernick filed a grievance against NFL owners in early November under the collective bargaining agreement, with the NFLPA releasing a statement in support of him.
Since opting out of his contract with the 49ers this past spring, Kaepernick hasn’t come close to getting an opportunity with an NFL team. Despite his 16 touchdowns against just four interceptions with 2,241 yards last season, there have been over 40 quarterbacks — some with no experience — that have been signed over him.