According to ESPN, the much-anticipated occasion first took an unexpected turn when Kaepernick relocated the workout — which was originally supposed to be held at the Atlanta Falcons‘ stadium — to an Atlanta-area high school. Instead of the NFL-sanctioned 3 p.m. ET start time, the workout started two hours late and was no longer NFL affiliated. The league said they weren’t informed of Kaepernick’s change in plans until 2:30 p.m. ET. and described the incident by saying Kaepernick “did not appear for his workout.” They said that 25 teams were present for their sanctioned workout and the league had planned to send video of the workout and an interview with Kaepernick to all 32 teams.
Kaepernick moved the workout because his representatives and the NFL were at odds over the liability waiver they wanted him to sign and Kaepernick had critiques about the overall transparency of the workout. According to Kaepernick’s attorney Ben Meiselas and agent Jeff Nalley, the league previously declined to allow media and cameras into the workout.
“From the outset, Mr. Kaepernick requested a legitimate process and from the outset the NFL league office has not provided one,” Meiselas and Nalley said in a statement. “Most recently, the NFL has demanded that as a precondition to the workout, Mr. Kaepernick sign an unusual liability waiver that addresses employment-related issues and rejected the standard liability waiver from physical injury proposed by Mr. Kaepernick’s representatives….Mr. Kaepernick simply asks for a transparent and open process which is why a new location has been selected for today.”
Kaepernick’s relocation of the workout and his refusal to sign the NFL’s liability waiver has been the crux of the debate on whether he did the right thing or not.
Sports analyst Stephen A. Smith slammed Kaepernick for not playing by the NFL’s rules saying in an Instagram video, “He don’t want to play. He wants to be a martyr. But guess what? It ain’t working this time.”
This prompted a heated response from Carolina Panthers player Eric Reid, who has consistently been supportive and defensive of Kaepernick. “@stephenasmith Tap dancing for the NFL,” Reid tweeted with a GIF of Daffy Duck tap dancing. “Damn straight Colin wants to control the narrative! He supposed to trust the organization that blackballed him and has done absolutely nothing in good faith??? Born on Tuesday, just not last Tuesday.”
Eventually, people like film director Ava DuVernay started siding with Kaepernick, especially when publications started explaining the liability waiver Kaepernick’s team offered vs. the waiver the NFL offered. Sports Illustrated obtained both waivers and broke it down.
Kaepernick’s waiver “made clear that he would have completely assumed the risk of physical injury,” according to SI. In other words, the NFL would be immune from liability for any and all physical injuries Kaepernick suffered during the workout. They also wouldn’t have to worry about legal claims related to death or physical injury brought to them by any of Kaepernick’s family, heirs or next of kin. According to SI, Kaepernick’s waiver contained no reference to potential employment-related claims. It was only a waiver for physical injury or death.
Meanwhile, the NFL’s waiver was quite different. It would have required Kaepernick to acknowledge that he was made “no promise of employment” by participating in a workout. This is problematic from Kaepernick’s perspective because if personnel and scouts from different teams talked about Kaepernick in an unfavorable light and if they expressed a desire to keep him out of the league, this kind of exchange could possibly give grounds to file a lawsuit or a second collusion grievance similar to the first collusion grievance Kaepernick filed against the NFL claiming they conspired to keep him out of the league.
Keapernick — who believes that the NFL blackballed him from the league from 2017 to 2019 because he took a knee and spoke out against police brutality — would not want to surrender his ability to invoke certain legal rights in the future. In other words, if teams used the workout to partake in collusive activities against Kaepernick, he would not want to forgo the chance to pursue legal actions over these activities.
The NFL’s waiver also included a section explaining that Kaepernick, “in consideration for the opportunity to participate in the workout,” would have released the NFL and everyone else connected to the workout from “any and all claims, demands, actions, causes of action, suits, grievances, costs, losses, expenses, damages, injuries, illnesses, and losses (including death) caused by, arising out of, occurring during, or related directly or indirectly to the workout, player’s presence at the facility, and any medical treatment or services rendered in connection with or necessitated by player’s participation in the workout.”
This is a broad scope, which can be read as much more than a release of liability for physical injury or death. Kaepernick could understandably question why the league is concerned about “any and all claims,” if only physical injury claims are the main concern. Considering the league also mentioned “employment” in their waiver, they could be making an attempt to release themselves from employment-related claims too.
The NFL says their waiver is standard, but as SI pointed out, this isn’t a standard situation. Kaepernick and the league fought each other in a collusion grievance for 16 months and both sides clearly don’t trust each other. A standard agreement might not have been suitable for this situation. Meanwhile, the NFL could argue that they don’t want to give Kaepernick preferential treatment by using his waiver because it could set a precedent for future workout sessions and players trying to write their own rules.
No matter who’s the side you take, it’s clear Kaepernick is still ready to play and he demonstrated his talents on Saturday at the high school. Kaepernick made a brief statement with the media present after his workout. “Let me start by saying I appreciate ya coming out, that means a lot to me,” he said. “Our biggest thing with everything today was making sure we had transparency in what went on. We weren’t getting that elsewhere so we came out here.”
He continued by mentioning the NFL Commissioner by name.
“I’ve been ready for three years. I’ve been denied for three years. We all know why. I came out here and showed it today in front of everybody. We have nothing to hide,” he said. “So we’re waiting for the 32 owners, the 32 teams, Roger Goodell to stop running. Stop running from the truth. Stop running from the people.”