Some NFL players and sports analysts have expressed skepticism about the NFL’s intentions in hosting an upcoming workout for Colin Kaepernick.
The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback tweeted on Tuesday evening that he had just been invited to work out for teams on Saturday at the Atlanta Falcons’ facility.
Kaepernick, who famously began kneeling during the national anthem at football games in 2016 to protest all forms of social injustice, has remained unsigned by any team since he became a free agent.
“I’ve been in shape and ready for this for 3 years, can’t wait to see the head coaches and GMs on Saturday,” the activist tweeted about the workout on Tuesday.
But people who have long advocated for Kaepernick’s return to the league are now questioning some of the details surrounding Saturday’s planned workout.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid, a friend and former teammate of Kaepernick, called the NFL workout “disingenuous.”
“At this point, I’ll believe when I see it; at this point, it feels like a PR stunt,” Reid said. “Again, being that it’s on a Saturday, what decision-makers are going to be able to attend that workout?” Many NFL teams have games the next day.
During an appearance on ESPN’s “First Take” this week, former NFL star Damien Woody argued that general managers and head coaches of teams will likely have difficulty attending the workout considering “they’re focused on the actual games on Sunday.”
“If you’re genuinely interested in getting Colin Kaepernick back in the league, why wouldn’t you put the workout on a Tuesday, which is usually the day that teams work out players, to give everyone the opportunity to go to such [a] workout?” Woody continued.
The concerns about Kaepernick’s workout reflect the NFL’s longstanding problem with confronting racial issues and the fact that the league has been widely accused of blackballing Kaepernick for his peaceful protests. The NFL faced renewed scrutiny after it entered a partnership with music mogul Jay-Z via his entertainment and sports company, Roc Nation, that will focus on the league’s social justice platform, Inspire Change.
Critics have argued that the partnership is insincere since Kaepernick has yet to be signed by a team.
On Wednesday, Reid also addressed reports that some teams have allegedly made inquiries to the league about Kaepernick’s readiness. The Panthers safety called it “bizarre” that teams wouldn’t directly offer the quarterback a workout.
“As far as I know, if you’re a free agent and a team is interested in you, they call you … they call you or your agent, they don’t call the league,” Reid told reporters.
Reid also added that he is “cautiously optimistic” about the workout, but noted that Kaepernick has “been ready” and that “he’ll perform” at the workout regardless.
Kaepernick’s representatives released statements last month noting that the quarterback has “been working out 5 days a week, for 3 years,” and that they’ve received “little to no response” from teams about opportunities for Kaepernick to play.
Other skeptics have questioned whether Kaepernick was given an adequate amount of notice about the workout and whether the league will provide the quarterback information on which team representatives are expected to attend the workout.
Representatives for the NFL did not immediately return HuffPost’s request for comment.
Houston Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills told reporters on Wednesday that he wasn’t sure what to make of the Saturday workout.
“Teams could have easily brought him in for a one-on-one workout,“ Stills said. “I don’t know what’s going on, if it’s some type of media circus or what they’re trying to do. You never know. I haven’t had enough time to look into it, so I can’t really say.”
Eagles player Malcolm Jenkins similarly told reporters on Wednesday that he was “skeptical” about the league’s motivations behind the workout.
Jemele Hill, a staff writer for The Atlantic covering sports, race, politics and culture, tweeted on Thursday morning that the workout “feels like a league PR stunt.”
“Something they can look back on later and say, ‘see we gave him a chance,’“she continued.
On Thursday evening, the official Twitter account for NFL communications released a statement noting that 11 teams had so far committed to attending the workout and that the league was expecting more to commit.
Former NFL head coach Hue Jackson will lead the drills, the league said.
“We will send video of the workout and interview to all 32 teams, including head coaches and general managers,” the statement continued.
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