President Donald Trump boasted during a Kentucky rally Monday night that quarterback Colin Kaepernick — who made headlines last season for protesting the pre-game national anthem — was still a free agent because NFL owners feared receiving "a nasty tweet from Donald Trump."
The crowd at the campaign-style rally cheered as the president of the United States bragged about effectively blackballing a private citizen for exercising his freedom of speech.
So why is Trump taking credit for the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback's continued free agency?
This all started last August when Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem in protest of systemic racism and police brutality. His protest soon spread across the NFL, colleges and high schools, and across other sports and social settings — to the chagrin of some who blasted the kneeling protesters as unpatriotic.
Enter Donald Trump.
In August, then-candidate Trump called the peaceful protest a "terrible thing" and said Kaepernick should leave the U.S.
"I think it's personally not a good thing, I think it's a terrible thing," Trump said in a radio interview. "And, you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him. Let him try, it won't happen."
Then, in October, Trump blamed a dip in ratings for the NFL on Kaepernick — and indicated that the game has gotten too soft.
"I don't know if you know, but the NFL is way down in their ratings. Way down," Trump said during a rally in Colorado. "And you know why? Two reasons. Number one is, this politics they're finding is a rougher game than football, and more exciting. Honestly, we've taken a lot of people away from the NFL. And the other reason is Kaepernick."
Kaepernick, for his part, fhas said that "America has never been great for people of color." He did not vote for Trump or Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, saying it would have been "hypocritical" of him to "show support for that system."
Adam Caplan, an NFL analyst with ESPN, said on Monday that Kaepernick's protest has been a factor for NFL owners, but "not nearly to the degree that we heard last summer."
"Now, it's more about football," Caplan said.
NFL reporter Jim Trotter said on the network that he spoke with four general managers and two owners and only one said that he believed Kaepernick was being blackballed. Everyone else believed Kaepernick was stuck in free agent limbo because of his poor play in recent years, saying that his "tape is not good."
But an unnamed AFC general manager told Bleacher Report that only 20% feel Kaepernick no longer has what it takes to be a starting quarterback. The rest, the anonymous GM said, either feared the wrath of protesters and a potential Trump tweet-storm or "genuinely hate him and can't stand what he did."
That report tickled Trump, who took a break from bragging about all the jobs he claims to have created to brag about keeping Kaepernick unemployed.
"There was an article today, it was reported that NFL owners don't want to pick him up because they don't want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump," the president said.
"You believe that?"