"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick said. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
On Monday he expanded on those comments. Here's one example. "You can become a cop in six months and you don't have to have the same amount of training as a cosmetologist," he said. "That's insane. I mean, someone that's holding a curling iron has more education and more training than people that have a gun and are going out on the street to protect us."
In response, the 49ers have said they will not discipline him for his actions or words, saying "...we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem."
(And I agree; while I would not have done what he did, here's why I respect his right to do so. It takes real commitment -- and real courage -- to do what he is doing.)
But the 49ers will cut him before the season starts.
In 2013 he threw for almost 3,200 yards with 21 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions. In 2014 he had a similar year although his passer rating slipped. Last year he only threw for 1,600 yards with 6 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, and a 78.5 passer rating.
Once considered if not elite then certainly an excellent quarterback, leading some analysts to predict he could be one of the all-time greats with his combination of running ability and passing skill, he is no longer in that discussion. He's had a relatively poor training camp; two days ago FOX Sports NFL reporter Jay Glazer said Kaepernick faces an "uphill battle" to make the roster.
And that's for football reasons -- not because of Kaepernick's recent actions and statements.
As do most things, ultimately the issue comes down to money. Since he was on the 49ers roster as of April 1 of this year his contract guarantees his nearly $12 million dollar salary for 2016 -- but if he is released before the end of training camp the 49ers would not have to pay the $1.1 million bonus he would then be due.
And if he is still on the roster next April 1, that would mean the 49ers must pay him $14.5 million. While you might be thinking, "Okay, but the 49ers have months to make that decision..." they might not: if Kaepernick suffers a season-ending injury this year that extends into next year the 49ers would have to honor his guaranteed salary for 2017, even if they release him later that year.
So what does that all mean?
Regardless of the recent controversy, the 49ers might have decided to release Kaepernick. Quarterbacks on a down slide typically don't turn back into superstars. So while his $11 million salary this year is guaranteed, they might have decided to move on, save the roster bonus, and avoid the risk of an injury that could put them on the hook for next year's salary as well.
Teams make those types of decisions all the time.
But now they're even more likely to let him go.
Face it: Superstars get more leeway. Superstars get to break rules lesser performing employees must follow. Superstars get to say and do things that others don't. While that might not sound fair that is the way it works: in sports, in the NFL... and in every business.
Your best salesperson can get away with a few things others can't. You let your best software engineer come in a little late if he wants; you see it as a reasonable tradeoff for outstanding performance. You look away when your best salesperson makes ever so slightly inappropriate jokes; you see it as a reasonable tradeoff for generating significant revenue.
You put up with a few things from your high performers that you would never tolerate from your mediocre employees.
Right now Kaepernick is a mediocre employee, and the 49ers will make the decision to let him go mostly for performance and money reasons... but also because he may no longer be worth the distraction he may cause.
It's just business... but because people are involved, it's also a teeny bit personal.