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How Did Kaepernick's NFL Workout Go? We Follow Up

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick did work out in front of NFL team representatives Saturday, but things did not exactly go as planned. The workout was unusual from the beginning. The league had scheduled it on a Saturday, when most NFL teams are getting ready for games. It has been nearly three years since Kaepernick has played in an NFL game. He was sidelined for taking a knee during the national anthem in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

On Friday, we talked with sportswriter Kevin Blackistone to preview the event. He is back with us now to make sense of what happened. Kevin, thanks for being here.

KEVIN BLACKISTONE: No problem.

MARTIN: So the plan had been for Kaepernick to work out at the Atlanta Falcons facility. Twenty-five teams sent reps, but everything changed at the last minute. What happened?

BLACKISTONE: Well, for one, the NFL handed him a waiver, which suggested to Colin Kaepernick and his camp that it would indemnify the NFL from any further losses from Kaepernick charging it with collusion. And as we know, they'd settled out of court on a previous lawsuit, the terms unbeknownst to the rest of us. But it suggested that the NFL was in fact wrong in the way that it handled his future employment.

So then they packed up their bags. They went about an hour away to a high school facility and did their workout there. And, by the way, the high school facility was named Charles Drew High School after Charles Drew, the famous black doctor from the last century who helped develop blood plasma but walked away from that after he found out the military was going to segregate and not use black blood.

MARTIN: Wow. Symbolism there, too, then.

BLACKISTONE: And not only that, Colin Kaepernick was also seen wearing a warmup jersey that stated the name Kunta Kinte, which is the character from "Roots" who had to be beaten into submission in order to say his slave name. So a lot of theatrics were involved this weekend.

MARTIN: Right. So he's - Kaepernick himself has gotten a lot of flak for this. I want to play a clip from Stephen A. Smith of ESPN. Let's listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STEPHEN A SMITH: He don't want to play. He wants to be a martyr. But guess what? It ain't working this time. All of us believed that Colin Kaepernick would have showed out. And if he had showed out, I'm here to tell you I believe he would have had a job inside of two weeks.

MARTIN: Hmm. What do you make of that?

BLACKISTONE: I'd dismiss that outright. I think that Colin Kaepernick does want to play football. That's what he does for a living. That's what he's done all of his life. And I do think he understands his political role in all of this. And quite frankly, he has proven in his lawsuit, in his stance and what he did over the weekend to show how the NFL, if not other sports leagues, really want to control black athletes. And he...

MARTIN: But 25 teams were ready to watch him - right? - until he changed the location.

BLACKISTONE: Well, absolutely. But he's doing everything on his terms. Remember - he protested on his terms. He walked away from his contract on his terms. He decided to do this particular event at the last minute, it seems - although I would argue that it was purposeful - on his terms. And so now we have paid attention to Colin Kaepernick. And his fight in an entirely different light.

MARTIN: Right.

BLACKISTONE: And I think that as the NFL players come to a new CBA, they need to - a new contract agreement...

MARTIN: Yeah.

BLACKISTONE: ...They need to think about this in terms of...

MARTIN: Moving forward.

BLACKISTONE: ...In terms of moving forward and taking agency with their own future.

MARTIN: OK. All right. Kevin Blackistone, thanks so much. It's NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF GOLD PANDA'S "DICKER'S DREAM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.