“I love Colin, did then, do now, always will. I hope he gets a shot. I hope that he has a chance to play again and that he does play. Just my personal view on it. Don't know all the ramifications, but I keep in touch with both Alex [Smith] and Colin. I'd love to see Colin get another shot at playing, I love watching him play football. And I hope Alex can come back, too. …
"Both class guys and great competitors and just wonderful to be around. Enjoyed coaching those guys and all those guys so much. One of the great joys of my life."
Smith also recently spoke about Kaepernick no longer being in the NFL. During an appearance on ESPN's Dan Le Batard Show, he said he couldn't believe a player who led the Niners to a Super Bowl in 2012 was still without a job (h/t Greg Joyce of the New York Post):
"It was hard to see that trajectory because he was playing so good and doing things that nobody had done. I think he still holds the single-game rushing record for a quarterback. It was crazy. So with that said, it was so absurd, I think equally, that it was only a few years later when you're like, 'This guy doesn't have a job.' That was hard to imagine, still is. A guy with his ability and trajectory that all of a sudden wasn't playing."
The events that led from Kaepernick serving as the starting quarterback for the Niners in their 34-31 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII to being out of football have been documented extensively, but to review: Kaepernick kneeled during the playing of the national anthem before games in the 2016 preseason and regular season to protest police brutality and racial discrimination.
It became a hotly contested national debate, with Kaepernick's critics arguing that his protest was disrespectful to the flag and military (despite the fact that Kaepernick consulted with former NFL player and Green Beret Nate Boyer, who suggested kneeling would be a respectful form of protest).
After the 2016 season, Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers (though general manager John Lynch said the team was planning to cut him), and no teams chose to sign him during free agency. Supporters of Kaepernick claimed that he was being blackballed for expressing his political views, and the NFL would ultimately settle a collusion lawsuit that Kaepernick and NFL safety Eric Reid filed against the league.
Kaepernick remains out of the league to this day.