"Taking a knee" is the story has dominated the NFL for the last year or so, dividing fans, the media and even the President. Since the protests began, everyone has had their say on it and now one of the most legendary names in the world of sport has weighed in on the debate.
The furore began in the 2016 preseason when Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the US national anthem due to the oppression of black people in the country, and since then, it has spiraled into something much bigger with athletes and sportsmen all over the country taking a knee during the national anthem.
Since the protest, Kaepernick has been outcast from the NFL, with no team willing to sign him due to the controversy. However, the quarterback has had plenty of support from those outside of the sport, including LeBron James. Speaking to ESPN, the legendary basketball player said:
"I love football, but I'm not part of the NFL. I don't represent the NFL. I don't know their rules and regulations. But I do know Kap is getting a wrongdoing, I do know that. Just watching, he's an NFL player."
"He's an NFL player and you see all these other quarterbacks out there and players out there that get all these second and third chances that are nowhere near as talented as him. It just feels like he's been blackballed out of the NFL. So, I definitely do not respect that."
Since Kaepernick's protest, 42 other quarterbacks have been signed in the NFL. James said that he doesn't see any reason for the QB's lack of a team, other than it being a backlash for his protesting during the anthem.
"The only reason I could say he's not on a team is because the way he took a knee. That's the only reason. I watch football every Sunday, every Thursday, every Monday night. I see all these quarterbacks—first-string, second-team, third-team quarterbacks—that play sometimes when the starter gets hurt or are starters that play."
"Kap is better than a lot of those guys. Let's just be honest."
James isn't the only high profile athlete to express this opinion. In March, Richard Sherman, the cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks, also said that Kaepernick was being blackballed.
"I'm sure he is. It's difficult to see because he's played at such a high level, and you see guys, quarterbacks, who have never played at a high level being signed by teams. So it's difficult to understand. Obviously, he's going to be in a backup role at this point."
"But you see quarterbacks, there was a year Matt Schaub had a pretty rough year and got signed the next year. So it has nothing to do with football. You can see that. They signed guys who have had off years before."
While plenty of people believe that Kaepernick is being blackballed due to his protest, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell downplayed this idea. When asked about Kaepernick's situation during a visit to a New York Jets training camp, he said:
"Those are independent decisions that clubs make," he told reporters. "Clubs are going to do what they think is in the best interest of their franchise and what it is that they can do to win."
I mean, it's pretty clear that the refusal to sign Kaepernick is down to the controversy that he causes. But if his protests are peaceful and respectful, what does it matter?