President Donald Trump said Wednesday that free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick should have an opportunity to play in the NFL.
"If he deserves it, he should," Trump said Wednesday during an interview with WJLA-TV, the ABC-affiliate in Washington D.C. "If he has the playing ability. He started off great, and then he didn't end up very great in terms of a player. He was terrific in his rookie year. I think he was very good in his second year. And then something happened. So his playing wasn't up to snuff."
Trump continued: "The answer is absolutely I would. As far as kneeling, I would love to see him get another shot. But obviously he has to be able to play well. If he can't play well, I think it would be very unfair."
Kaepernick, who has not played in the NFL since the 2016 season, sat for the majority of his rookie season with the San Francisco 49ers. He took over for Alex Smith halfway through his second season and led the Niners to Super Bowl XLVII where they nearly beat the Baltimore Ravens.
Kaepernick then went 12-4 during his first full season as a starter in 2013, throwing for 3,197 yards with 21 touchdowns while adding four more touchdowns and 524 yards on the ground. Kaepernick and the 49ers almost advanced to a second consecutive Super Bowl that season but lost 23-17 to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC title game.
Kaepernick signed a contract extension the following offseason and started 16 games again in the 2014 with an 8-8 record during Jim Harbaugh's final year in San Francisco. Kaepernick battled injury throughout the next two seasons as the 49ers saw Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly each last a single season as head coach.
Kaepernick peacefully protested social injustice and police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem during the 2016 season and has not been signed by a team since parting ways with the 49ers. Trump said during a 2017 political rally that team owners should fire players who fail to stand for the national anthem prior to games.