Colin Kaepernick, still unsigned six weeks into the NFL season, believes he is being blackballed for his role in protests during the national anthem and has filed a grievance against NFL owners. The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback became a free agent at the end of last season and has failed to land a contract despite impressive statistics and injuries to other quarterbacks. His complaint accuses team owners of collusion, which Sports Illustrated defines as what happens when "two or more teams, or the league and at least one team, join to deprive a player of a contractually earned right," including the right of a free-agent player to negotiate a contract.
Last year, Kaepernick was the first player to protest racial injustice by refusing to stand for the anthem. If the NFL is to remain a meritocracy, "principled and peaceful political protest ... should not be punished," his attorney, Mark Geragos, said in a statement, per Bleacher Report. Kaepernick's grievance was filed under the latest collective bargaining agreement and the NFL player's union says it is supporting him. Former 49ers teammate Eric Reid, who started kneeling during the anthem soon after Kaepernick began his protest, tells the AP that it "sure seems like he is being blackballed." "I think all the stats prove that he's an NFL-worthy quarterback," he says. "So that's his choice and I support his decision."