LeBron James Says Colin Kaepernick Is Being Blackballed by NFL

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistNovember 19, 2017

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James talks with an official in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James said Sunday he believes former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is being blackballed by NFL owners.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com passed along comments the face of the NBA made about the hot-button topic following Cavs practice.

"I love football, but I'm not part of the NFL. I don't represent the NFL. I don't know their rules and regulations. But I do know Kap is getting a wrong doing, I do know that. Just watching, he's an NFL player. He's an NFL player and you see all these other quarterbacks out there and players out there that get all these second and third chances that are nowhere near as talented as him. It just feels like he's been blackballed out of the NFL. So, I definitely do not respect that."

Kaepernick, who started the trend of NFL players taking a knee for the national anthem during the 2016 NFL preseason, has remained a free agent since opting out of his contract with the Niners in March. Martenzie Johnson of The Undefeated noted 42 other quarterbacks have signed contracts since that point.

James told McMenamin he doesn't see any other plausible explanation for the 30-year-old QB's staying on the open market so long aside from backlash for the protest during the anthem.

"The only reason I could say he's not on a team is because the way he took a knee. That's the only reason. I watch football every Sunday, every Thursday, every Monday night. I see all these quarterbacks—first-string, second-team, third-team quarterbacks—that play sometimes when the starter gets hurt or are starters that play. Kap is better than a lot of those guys. Let's just be honest."

He's not the only high-profile athlete to express that opinion.

In March, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman also agreed with the idea Kaepernick was being blackballed during an appearance on ESPN's First Take.

"I'm sure he is. It's difficult to see because he's played at such a high level, and you see guys, quarterbacks, who have never played at a high level being signed by teams. So it's difficult to understand. Obviously he's going to be in a backup role at this point. But you see quarterbacks, there was a year Matt Schaub had a pretty rough year and got signed the next year. So it has nothing to do with football. You can see that. They signed guys who have had off years before."

Meanwhile, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell downplayed that sentiment when asked about it when he visited New York Jets training camp in July.

"Those are independent decisions that clubs make," he told reporters. "Clubs are going to do what they think is in the best interest of their franchise and what it is that they can do to win."

Kaepernick owns a career 88.9 passer rating, which would have ranked 11th among active quarterbacks if he was on a roster entering Sunday (minimum of 1,500 pass attempts), and also added 2,300 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground across six years in San Francisco.