Trump on whether Kaepernick ought to play: 'If he's good enough'

President Trump might just have done Colin Kaepernick a huge favor.

Two years after Trump roiled the NFL by declaring that any player, like Kaepernick, who knelt during the national anthem was a “son of a bitch” who ought to be “fired,” Trump reversed course on Friday. Asked during an impromptu press conference whether Kaepernick ought to be given a chance to play in the NFL, Trump offered a measured, politics-free response.

“Only if he’s good enough,” Trump said. “If he’s good enough, I know the owners, I know (Patriots owner) Bob Kraft, I know so many of the owners. If he’s good enough, I know these people. They would sign him in a heartbeat. They will do anything they can to win games. Frankly, I’d love to see Kaepernick come in if he’s good enough. But I don’t want to see him come in if somebody thinks it’s a good PR move. If he’s good enough, he will be in.”

Here’s the full answer:

Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem as a means of protesting police brutality starting in the 2016 preseason. His movement gathered steam throughout that year, then exploded after he was out of the league. For much of 2017, the NFL wrestled with how to deal with unceasing, unrelenting attacks from Trump and his base.

Kaepernick, meanwhile, insisted that he was not only willing to play but staying ready. Just this week, he released a short Twitter post indicating his willingness to get back in the game:

It’s indisputable that Kaepernick was good enough to play in the NFL at the time the protests effectively ended his career. Whether he’s currently NFL-caliber after two years off the field is another question entirely, one that has nothing to do with his political stance.

Back in 2017, Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers after being told he would be cut in order to give himself more time to sign with another NFL team. That never happened, even though Kaepernick was at the time just three years removed from leading San Francisco to the cusp of a Super Bowl title.

Neither Kaepernick’s own statistics nor NFL teams’ personnel choices countered the perception that Kaepernick was being effectively blackballed for his personal views. A Washington Post review of statistics following the 2017 season found that 15 starting quarterbacks performed better than Kaepernick’s last averages, seven performed about the same, and 10 performed worse.

From a free-agent perspective, it’s tough to argue with a straight face that some of the quarterbacks who have suited up for NFL teams since Kaepernick left the Niners are in any way better than him. The Undefeated compiled a list of 85 quarterbacks signed after Kaepernick became a free agent; the list included a player who hadn’t taken a snap since 2013 and a player who got beaten out for the third QB spot on his previous team, among many others.

Granted, it’s absolutely understandable that teams wouldn’t want the supposed media circus that would accompany Kaepernick, or — more specifically — the bullhorn-blast of a presidential tweet raining social-media hellfire down on them. But no team ever phrased its objection to Kaepernick that way, and instead avoided Kaepernick by questioning his athleticism or saying he didn’t fit their system ... no matter what that system happened to be.

But here’s the fascinating twist about Trump’s new stand: by saying Kaepernick could play “if he’s good enough,” he just gave teams the cover they need to sign Kaepernick. The NFL has largely recovered from whatever Trump-inflicted damage hit the NFL in the wake of 2017’s protest battles — ratings are back up, nobody’s burning any jerseys — but risk-averse teams surely aren’t eager to re-live those days when an entire swath of the nation declared NFL football one of many Enemies of the People.

Who could sign Kaepernick? The Eagles are the obvious frontrunner after losing Nate Sudfeld to a broken wrist. The Ravens feature Kaepernick’s old offensive coordinator. The Cardinals might need a solid backup to Kyler Murray. And there will be injuries. There are always injuries.

The irony, of course, is that Kaepernick has been out of the league for so long that while questions about his ability weren’t necessarily legitimate before, they very much are now. He might just get a chance to prove himself once again after all.

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Athletes and teams Trump has hosted at the White House
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Athletes and teams Trump has hosted at the White House
TOPSHOT - Guests select fast food that the US president purchased for a ceremony honoring the 2018 College Football Playoff National Champion Clemson Tigers in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, January 14, 2019. - US President Donald Trump says the White House chefs are furloughed due to the partial government shutdown. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Baylor women's basketball head coach Kim Mulkey, third from left, presents a jersey to President Donald Trump as he welcomed members of the Baylor women's basketball team, who are the 2019 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball National Champions, to the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Monday, April 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Donald Trump is given a jersey as he welcomes 2018 NCAA FCS College Football Champions, The North Dakota State Bison, to the State Dining room of the White House in Washington, Monday, March 4, 2019, with McDonald's and Chick-fil-A fast food. Third from left is to Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., second from right is Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and third from right is North Dakota State Bison quarterback Easton Stick. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Donald Trump poses for a picture with the 2017 NCAA football national champions, the Alabama Crimson Tide on the White House's South Lawn, in Washington, Tuesday, April 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. presents a NASCAR helmet to U.S. President Donald Trump as the president welcomes Truex and his team to the White House in Washington, U.S., May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
WASHINGTON, USA - APRIL 19: U.S. President Donald Trump (C) holds up a customized jersey presented to him by 2017 Super Bowl Champions the New England Patriots during their visit to the White House in Washington, United States on April 19, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 01: U.S. President Donald Trump is presented with a jersey by team captain Ahmad Bradshaw (R) during an event with the Army Black Knights football team from the U.S. Military Academy May 1, 2018 in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC. President Trump hosted the 2017 Commander in Chief's Trophy champion to honor their victory. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with the Houston Astros, the 2017 World Series Champions, in the East Room at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 12, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 28: President Donald Trump holds a Chicago Cubs jersey as he meets with members of the 2016 World Series Champions Chicago Cubs in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on Wednesday, June 28, 2017. Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant holds a '45' sign. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - (L-R) With Penguins' coach Mike Sullivan, and co owners Ronald Burkle and Mario Lemieux behind, President Donald Trump honors the Stanley Cup Champions Pittsburgh Penguins in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC Tuesday October 10, 2017. The Stanley Cup Trophy is in the foreground. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 27: U.S. President Donald Trump hosts Team USA at the North Portico of the White House April 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Trump hosted the team to celebrate their victories in the 2018 Winter Olympics. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 27: U.S. President Donald Trump hosts Team USA at the North Portico of the White House April 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Trump hosted the team to celebrate their victories in the 2018 Winter Olympics. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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