President Trump said Wednesday that he “absolutely” would support an NFL comeback for free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick, but only if the prominent social justice activist has the on-field ability to justify an offer.
“If he deserves it, he should. If he has the playing ability,” Trump said in an interview with Sinclair Broadcasting. “He started off great and then he didn’t end up very great as a player. He was terrific in his rookie year. I think he was very good in his second year and then something happened, so his play wasn’t up to snuff. The answer is, absolutely I would.”
Kaepernick, 32, hasn’t played in the NFL since the 2016 season. The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback was the first player to kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality in the United States.
Trump has repeatedly criticized players who protest during the national anthem. At one point, he called on NFL team owners to fire any player who knelt, arguing the protests are disrespectful to the flag and military veterans.
“As far as kneeling, I would like to see him get another shot, but obviously he has to be able to play well. If he can’t play well, I think it would be very unfair,” Trump added.
A second-round draft pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Kaepernick led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance after taking over as the team’s starter midway through the 2012 season. He spent the next two seasons as the 49ers’ starting quarterback, but missed half of the 2015 due to injury and spent a portion of the 2016 season as a backup.
Earlier this week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he supports Kaepernick’s comeback and encourages teams to sign him. Goodell’s statements came months after the NFL and Kaepernick engaged in a public war of words after a league-initiative private workout for the quarterback collapsed.