That price? At least $20 million, according to the Associated Press’s Barry Wilner, who said he got that information from a person with “knowledge of the conversation” between Kaepernick and the fledgling league.
That kind of sum would have been far beyond the salary structure of the AAF, which is giving each of its players, regardless of position, a three-year contract worth $250,000. Neither Kaepernick nor his representatives have publicly commented on the AP report.
“We have always been open to anyone who wanted an opportunity to begin, extend or revitalize their career to come play under our system,” said AAF co-founder Charlie Ebersol, in a statement provided to The Post.
A person connected to the AAF told The Post that the league “did not chase after” Kaepernick but did “let all high-quality” football players “know we were starting the league and it could be an opportunity for them.”
Earlier on Thursday, The Athletic’s Lindsay Jones reported that Ebersol had “reached out” to Kaepernick about his possible interest in joining in the league. The AAF’s other co-founder, Bill Polian, told Jones, “I don’t know what transpired, but he’s obviously not playing."
Polian, a longtime NFL executive and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who is also an analyst for ESPN, added that he had spoken with Tim Tebow, a fellow ESPN employee and ex-NFL quarterback who “declined” to join the AAF. Steve Spurrier, coach of the league’s Orlando Apollos, said earlier in the week that he had also gotten in touch with Tebow but was told the former University of Florida Heisman Trophy winner was focused on his baseball career.
In addition to potentially restarting his football career, Tebow would have given the AAF a useful jolt of star power as it looks to gain a toehold among sports consumers. While the league has several players who spent time in the NFL, it is mostly lacking in players with name recognition, apart from quarterback Christian Hackenberg and running back Trent Richardson, among a few others.
If the report of Kaepernick’s financial demand is accurate, it could reflect an awareness of how much interest, not to mention revenue from apparel sales, his participation in the AAF would generate. In originating the practice of taking a knee during the national anthem to protest racial injustice, he became a lightning rod for controversy and a target of criticism from President Trump.
Kaepernick on Friday settled a grievance charging that the NFL and its teams colluded to keep him from signing with a team in retaliation for his protests. Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid also resolved his grievance, the NFL annoucned. His plight has made him much more of a household name than he ever was as a player, even while leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance in 2013.
Nike made Kaepernick the centerpiece of a national ad campaign last fall and he has won awards such as Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois medal, Sports Illustrated’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award and Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience award. In addition, pop-music superstars such as Rihanna and Cardi B have cited support for him as reasons they have declined to participate in NFL events such as the Super Bowl halftime show.
In his most recent NFL season, over 11 games for San Francisco in 2016, Kaepernick went 1-10 but notched a 90.7 passer rating while throwing for 16 touchdowns and four interceptions, and he added 468 yards and two touchdowns as a runner.
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