Dez Bryant had a pointed critique of Colin Kaepernick and what he perceived as a lack of commitment by Kaepernick to the social causes he has championed.
The three-time Pro Bowler offered his thoughts on the I Am Athlete podcast:
"I respect Colin Kaepernick, but there's one thing I don't respect. And I said when I get the opportunity to get on the stage to say it I would say it. I love him to death, so it ain't no hate or nothing like that. But brother, you had the biggest opportunity in the world to create jobs, build jobs, give jobs to people, the people you were talking about, the people that you so called standing up for, the people who stood beside you, the people who lost their jobs because of you. Where are you at? I ain't heard from you."
The free-agent wide receiver went on to say Kaepernick "brought the awareness" but that "there was no call to action."
I AM ATHLETE @IAMATHLETEpod
<a href="https://twitter.com/DezBryant?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@dezbryant</a> calls out <a href="https://twitter.com/Kaepernick7?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@kaepernick7</a> 👀<br><br>EPISODE 4 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/IAMATHLETE?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#IAMATHLETE</a> LIVE NOW‼️<a href="https://t.co/TbtPcLT7L0">https://t.co/TbtPcLT7L0</a> <br><br>Available on:<br>🎥: <a href="https://twitter.com/YouTube?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@youtube</a> <br>🎵: <a href="https://twitter.com/ApplePodcasts?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@applepodcasts</a> <br>🎵: <a href="https://twitter.com/Spotify?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@spotify</a> <br>🎵: <a href="https://twitter.com/googlepodcast?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@googlepodcast</a> <br>🎵: <a href="https://twitter.com/amazonmusic?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@amazonmusic</a> <a href="https://t.co/vyNdidObSG">pic.twitter.com/vyNdidObSG</a>
The discussion begins at the 30:30 mark of his interview:
The Atlantic's Jemele Hill responded to Bryant's argument on Twitter:
Jemele Hill @jemelehill
With all due respect <a href="https://twitter.com/DezBryant?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DezBryant</a>, this is uninformed. Colin Kaepernick has created a publishing company, a SPAC that’s raising $300M for social justice initiatives, a production company, etc. On top of founding the Know Your Rights Camp. I don’t get the point of dragging his name. <a href="https://t.co/rKt6GUlHmg">https://t.co/rKt6GUlHmg</a>
Bryant later took to social media to clarify his remarks:
This isn't the first time Bryant has spoken up about Kaepernick's advocacy. In November 2019, he tagged the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback and asked, "Where are the next steps? Where is the action behind the words.":
Dez Bryant @DezBryant
Day1 as when he got drafted?... or when Trayvon martin was Gun downed? he was in the nfc championship or super Bowl that year if not mistaken or This started whenever he chose not to play ball because he wasn’t a starter? Just be a lil bit more specific.. <a href="https://t.co/DCG4EZhOxi">https://t.co/DCG4EZhOxi</a>
Dez Bryant @DezBryant
Y’all making it seem like I’m against the man.... I feel like it’s more he could be doing for the people... so many businesses he could have started to employ the people...and raising money to go back into the communities especially with all of his supporters <a href="https://t.co/Df8DcZFNMO">https://t.co/Df8DcZFNMO</a>
Kaepernick first drew attention in 2016 when he chose not to stand for the national anthem before a preseason game. He told NFL Network's Steve Wyche at the time he was "not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color."
As the protests spread across the NFL and to other sports leagues, Kaepernick's profile as a social activist grew. Many also came to believe his advocacy was part of what cost him a future in the NFL. The 33-year-old hasn't appeared in a game since the 2016 season.
In February 2019, he and former 49ers teammate Eric Reid settled a grievance with the league after alleging team owners had colluded to ensure they remained unsigned.
Kaepernick did at least receive a form of vindication during the summer of 2020.
When Americans across the country began protesting against police brutality and systemic racism, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in June 2020 that league officials "admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest."