Santa Clara, Calif. — Colin Kaepernick still has high-profile supporters but even higher-profile detractors.
The one-time 49ers quarterback on Monday was the target of President Donald Trump, who in a rally in Louisville, Kentucky, noted that Kaepernick remains unsigned.
Trump began his riff by referring to Kaepernick as “your San Francisco quarterback — I’m sure nobody ever heard about him.”
Trump said he read a report that said NFL owners don’t want to sign Kaepernick “because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump. Do you believe that?” he asked as the crowd cheered behind him.
Last year, as Kaepernick’s national anthem protest was in its zenith, then-candidate Trump suggested the quarterback find another country if he’s upset with this one. Kaepernick was protesting the treatment of minorities in the United States, particularly issues with police brutality.
A day after Trump’s comments, his former coach, Jim Harbaugh, was on the radio with Pro Football Live. Harbaugh, who drafted Kaepernick in the second round in 2011 and then went to the Super Bowl with Kaepernick as his starter a year later, said NFL teams have called him for advice on Kaepernick.
“I’ll tell you the same thing I tell them,” Harbaugh, now the coach at Michigan, said. “I think he’s an outstanding player and I think he’s a great competitor who has proven it in games and has the ability to be not only an NFL starter but a great NFL player.”
Harbaugh said that if a team shows patience, Kaepernick will “have a great career and be a great quarterback, win championships.”
John Lynch, the 49ers’ general manager, said last week that it was unlikely the 49ers would re-sign Kaepernick after bringing in former Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley as free agents. Lynch this week is taking a close look at college quarterbacks, including North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky, who has his pro day today.
Kaepernick, meanwhile, has had no reported visits to NFL teams. Lynch said there was a belief in NFL circles that an unnamed team was close to signing Kaepernick but that a deal fell apart.
Trump received support in the recent election from several NFL owners, including Jets owner Woody Johnson, who is being appointed ambassador to the United Kingdom. The Jets, who have struggled to find a starting quarterback in recent years, on Monday signed journeyman Josh McCown, who is on his eighth team.
Kaepernick may be unpopular with the NFL owners, but the same can’t be said about NFL players. The 49ers voted him the winner of their most prestigious award, the Len Eshmont Award, at the end of the 2016 season.