Colin Kaepernick Heads Michigan as Honorary Captain

by TK Sanders
(Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

Former NFL quarterback and longtime social justice activist Colin Kaepernick will stand in as an honorary captain for the annual Michigan Maize and Blue game. The school announced Kaepernick’s involvement yesterday via social media. The post shows pictures of the embattled QB smiling alongside Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and other players.

Long before the Michigan honor, Harbaugh coached Colin Kaepernick in the NFL for four seasons. The two men worked together for the San Francisco 49ers from 2011 to 2014. Kaepernick led the team to a Super Bowl appearance in 2012 after Harbaugh benched former NFL quarterback Alex Smith in favor of the younger, faster option. Harbaugh left for Michigan in 2015; and Kaepernick took up the mantle as an outspoken social justice advocate shortly thereafter by kneeling for the national anthem. The University of Nevada product played his last professional snap in 2016.

In the announcement, Kaepernick is holding a customized No. 7 Wolverines jersey; and posing with his former coach, Michigan QB Cade McNamara, and a group of players taking a knee.

The stop in Ann Arbor comes on the heels of a very pronounced public relations tour for Kaepernick in which he seems hopeful for one last shot in the NFL — nearly six years after last playing professional football. He has posted multiple social media videos of workouts and personal updates, often captioning them with phrases like “still working.”

Colin Kaepernick has a long history of public appearances before his stop at Michigan

Kaepernick also reportedly reached out to Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll about a possible tryout for the club. The Seahawks do need a quarterback after trading away longtime franchise player Russell Wilson last month to the Broncos. But league insiders do not expect much to materialize on that front. Carroll recently told the media that talks with Kaepernick “have not progressed beyond the early connection that we made.”

Kaepernick’s story resonates with different fans in very different ways, even now, six years after his initial antics. Believers in the social justice movements of the past few years, including Black Lives Matter and other adjacent organizations, feel like Kaepernick was blackballed from the NFL in the prime of a promising career for politicizing football. Conversely, a large portion of different fans believe that Kaepernick disrespected the game and the country at-large by engaging in his protests and subsequent media tirades; and that the NFL does not owe him a job simply for being qualified to work as their employee.

Regardless of fan opinion, the Kaepernick saga certainly shined a spotlight on the burgeoning intersection of corporate policy and this new era of activism-as-a-career. By sitting out of football, Kaepernick has also achieved a martyr status amongst many factions of passionate social justice advocates. Whether his future holds a litany of press appearances like his stop in Michigan, or an actual second chance in the NFL, one thing’s certain: he has made an indelible mark on the game of football history.