Jenkins was one of the first NFL players to join Kaepernick three years ago in protesting police brutality and racial oppression during the playing of the national anthem. Since that pivotal moment, Kaepernick became the symbol for an entire social-justice movement and, in the process, found himself ostensibly blackballed by the NFL.
The 32-year-old hasn’t played in a game since the 2016 season. However, Jenkins — who co-founded the Players Coalition with former NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin in an effort to impact social justice and racial-equality reform at federal, state and local levels of government — noted the NFL’s hypocrisy in keeping Kaepernick out for so long.
“I don’t know what else you want the guy to do,” Jenkins said in a sit-down interview with Yahoo Sports on Friday afternoon.
“His message is no different than mine. He’s not getting in trouble, he’s not doing anything against the law, he’s pushing the same agenda that the league is now trying to get behind when it comes to this social-justice platform, and his game speaks for itself.”
Jenkins then added with a laugh: “So, I don’t know what else you need him to do — if you need him to sell in the stands or learn a new skill? I don’t know. So hopefully this tryout and things like that are truly based on an evaluation of his talent. And if it is, his talent will speak for itself.”
The well-documented friction between Jenkins, Kaepernick and Kaepernick’s former 49ers teammate (and current Panthers safety) Eric Reid stem from behind-the-scenes disagreements about the Players Coalition and the group’s acceptance of a $90 million deal with the NFL to assist with projects centered on racial inequality. Despite their fractured friendship, Jenkins has maintained publicly that Kaepernick — who, along with Reid, settled their collusion case against the league earlier this year — is more than deserving of a job.
The NFL sent out a memo on Tuesday inviting teams to attend the private workout for Kaepernick, which will be held at the Atlanta Falcons’ facility. The timing of the seemingly hastily planned session — and the lack of clarity surrounding the closed event — was met with raised eyebrows by many in league circles, including Jenkins.
“For three years we’ve been clamoring for him to get a shot in the league, clamoring that he’s been working out, he’s been ready,” the 11-year veteran said of the unexpected tryout, which will be made available to all 32 NFL teams. “There have been plenty of quarterbacks that have been hurt, plenty of quarterbacks that aren’t as talented. And so it just leaves you to ask: ‘Why now?’ It seemed really convenient.
“But it’s one of those things where you have to wait and see. Hopefully it is a real opportunity for him to get back in the league and it’s not just a game. I’d be happy for him if he got that shot. But we’d be naive to not have a little skepticism.”
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