STATESIDE: Colin Kaepernick in lose-lose situation as free agent

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Colin Kaepernick plans to stand for the national anthem next season.

Colin Kaepernick cannot win.

For some, the now former San Francisco 49ers quarterback was a trailblazer for social equality at a time when the United States was beginning to tear itself apart.

His refusal to stand for the national anthem last season sparked ferocious debate. It was started before United States President Donald Trump’s rise to power though was timely all the same. Police brutality in deprived black communities had reached the point of no return.

It sparked a similar stream of political stands from all over US sports – especially in the NFL and the NBA. Say what you want about Trump (pictured right) – believe me, it’s hard to avoid the man’s name in conversation here – but his Presidency has undoubtedly got literally everyone talking – and caring – about politics.

Though considering the revelation that the 29-year-old Kaepernick will refrain from kneeling during the Star Spangled Banner came at exactly the same time he was announced as a free-agent after six years with the 2-14 Niners, doubts surrounding his protests have been raised.

‘He’s a hypocrite’ snarled the New York Daily News who were convinced his decision to abort his public displays of anger to ensure getting the best contract possible. “So much for the cause he once called ‘bigger than football’, and so much for the anger he once had toward a flag that ‘oppresses black people and people of colour,’” wrote one of their columnists. Harsh.

This whole saga, coupled with the anger and fury over the political climate right now, totally overshadowed his day job – throwing footballs for touchdowns which he failed to do very often.

There were times when he found himself uncomfortably out of his depth when his politics hat was on. On wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with a picture of despised Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, he was ripped apart from a Miamibased columnist who severely took him to task on where exactly his allegiances lie.

Some members of the military were also upset for what they saw as disrespecting the flag. An unnamed NFL account executive told the Washington Post that his future may not be straightforward: “Everything is a factor, especially at that position. You take everything into consideration. That’s the face of your franchise, as they say.” Kaepernick has baggage.

The 49ers weren’t keen to extend his deal, which says everything about their view of him from a purely sporting point of view. Nevertheless, at the end of last season he was presented with the Len Eshmont award from 49ers top brass, the yearly gong which is given to the player who impresses with spirit and heart.

The Kaepernicks won’t be going hungry anytime soon, yet this is his last payday. He has to chase some money. The way he attacked the authorities from his lofty vantage point and inspired others to follow suit was admirable. Okay, so he won’t kneel anymore.

Yes, the timing can be construed as being a tad iffy. But will his beliefs change as a result? Absolutely not. This period of his life will stick with him forever. He’s certainly not backwards in coming forwards. Yet perhaps, for now, enough is enough. Point made.

People have been made aware. The fight isn’t over even if the kneeling is. He donated money – over $1 million – to organisations working in oppressed communities, but protests of this kind cannot last forever.

The fight goes on regardless, with or without him, yet it did cause a serious problem for commissioner Roger Goodell who was trying to talk down a reduction in TV viewing figures at the time.

By the end of the season, there wasn’t a fuss made about Kaepernick’s knee, though the image had been seared into America’s conscious. It took huge guts to take a stand and it takes even more courage to walk away knowing a firestorm is on the way.

Those looking to follow his lead in the future will undoubtedly be inspired and wary in equal measure.

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HIGHLIGHTS: Curry comes alive as Warriors end losing skid

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Stephen Curry moved into 10th place on the all-time three-point list as the Golden State Warriors rebounded from back-to-back defeats with a 112-105 NBA win over the struggling New York Knicks on Sunday.

The Warriors had dropped two straight games since losing Kevin Durant to injury and one factor was a lack of production from Curry.

But the reigning two-time NBA Most Valuable Player found his scoring touch on Sunday.

The 28-year-old point guard tallied 31 points, hitting five three-pointers at Madison Square Garden to move ahead of Chauncey Billups for 10th place overall.
"We haven't been playing our best. It was showing as we lost two in a row," said Curry. "Just the way we were playing wasn't great so we wanted to get back to who we are."






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STATESIDE: An NBA All-Star cast but the show is falling way flat

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No protection: Anthony Davis gets to the rim during his record haul of 52 points.

Who wants to watch an NBA training session? Well, simply find a repeat of the All-Star game, kick back and experience the best basketball players going through the paces ad nauseum.

The annual jamboree is supposed to be fun, a welcome respite in the middle of a mentally tiring and physically demanding season. Everyone is smiling. Fans woo their heroes. It’s backslap and high five central.

The All-Star concept is a nice one – the general public voting for who they want to be representing the East and West. Imagine if La Liga or the Premier League did something similar. It’d be great.

Though that’s unfortunately where the interest ends because the action – if you can call it that – is so uncompetitive it makes me shooting hoops against my 18-month-old daughter in the garden seem all blood, guts and thunder.

There’s zero defense. Barely a sweat broken. Just a shedload of crazy dunk attempts and Steph Curry aiming to hit three pointers from so far downtown he’s in the suburbs.

Yes, it’s great for the crowd – in this case the good people of New Orleans – and those watching at home to see LeBron James, Curry, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade Carmelo Anthony et al share some court time.

Yet give it five minutes of everyone ambling around like lost puppies who’d rather be snuggled up at home and you’ll soon lose interest.

For the record, and because everyone has already forgotten, the final score was 192-182 to the West. The MVP was Anthony Davis, the only New Orleans Pelican on show and owner of 52 points. Fancy that.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Davis. For you maybe, but what about the poor souls who paid decent money to witness a glorified game of ‘you score, I score.’

Stephen Curry.

Stephen Curry.

Davis’ tally smashed Wilt Chamberlain’s 55-year-old record of 42 though I bet the Philadelphia legend played in clashes which were unrecognisable to the nonsense served up last weekend. Indeed, these games used to be competitive.

Players of a different era were more physical, less friendly and intent on making a mark. In 1987, Hakeem Olajuwon was, incredible to think, fouled out of the game. Would that have happened this time around?

At halftime, no player had more than one foul to his name. The result? There were 189 points scored. Why bother with opponents? Where was the aggression and dynamism on show every night in the NBA?

Well, unfortunately, it has been shut away in the locker since the time in 2012 when Wade smashed Kobe Bryant’s nose. No one wants to see players injured ahead of the crucial final run-in and being named as an All-Star is certainly a great honour.

Few expect a wild, hell for leather encounter. But something needs to be done. Personally, I believe the most interesting action precedes the main event.

Saturday night’s festivities include the skills challenge as well as the three point and slam dunk challenge. Admittedly, it all fell a bit flat this year. The dunking was awful while the shooting lacked serious drama.

At least, however, it’s something different – players seem to take it reasonably seriously as the spotlight burns on their particular skills set.

There are so many matches across the season, who needs another one? NBA bosses surely have to mix everything up. Perhaps just play two halves and put the dunking and three point competitions in between.

Maybe decree that the winners will ensure home court advantage for the Championship finals. That’s been used, admittedly controversially, in baseball for the last few years.

If, for example, the American League wins, their representative will get four World Series home games instead of three.

It’s a dodgy concept with more than a few flaws but there were enough players on show from the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers and other teams sure to be fighting it out at the end of the season to make that a viable option.

What else? Double the pay packets on offer to the victors? USA v the Rest of the World? LeBron v Steph in a cage match? Stage it in the pre-season? Don’t stage it at all? Do something. Anything. The best in the world are on show yet the end product is meaningless.

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