Think of the 2016 NFL season — before Tom Brady's fifth Super Bowl ring or Aaron Rodgers' Hail Marys — and you'll remember the storyline that almost took over the entire campaign.
Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to take a stand against racial injustice in the United States by taking a knee during the national anthem. Several other protests followed around the league, as did backlash.
The backlash hasn't ceased for Kaepernick, who remains unemployed as all 32 NFL teams have already begun their offseason training programs. His former teammate, Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith, thinks there is something peculiar going on.
"I am a firm believer in second chances," Smith, who signed a two-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason, told the media after practice Tuesday. "My family has had a lot of legal issues in the past. If you make a mistake it doesn't mean you have to be that way forever. I believe in a second chance for a guy like Joe Mixon even though I am a strong advocate against domestic volence. I think you have to be open-minded to know [Kaepernick] didn't commit a crime, he didn't hurt anybody. He staged a protest.
"You are willing to support guys who beat women. It doesn't make sense to me."
The NFL has famously turned the other cheek, or has acted questionably when it has come to off-field issues like domestic volence. But somehow the league has been able to move past it, allowing players with dark criminal histories to not only play but also make millions of dollars while acting as a role model for football fans everywhere. Yet Kaepernick's political statement has thus far cost him a job for the 2017 season.
"I think there's different ways to look at being blackballed," Smith said. "There may be teams coming in who don't want him because he's a backup but at this point in the league there are 96 quarterbacks on teams. You can't tell me there are 96 quarterbacks better than him."
"You hear some fans heckling," Smith said. "People are mad at him during the anthem, isn't that disrespectful? You're walking down the stairs on your cell phone during the anthem — be consistent."