It was nearly two years ago that Colin Kaepernick first refused to stand for the national anthem. Now, the free agent is pursuing a collusion case against the NFL, arguing that league owners blacklisted him. But the former 49ers quarterback is also involving the White House — according to Yahoo Sports, Kaepernick will subpoena Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and other officials on the grounds that Trump convinced league owners not to take him on.
Back in 2016, Kaepernick chose to sit or kneel during the national anthem as a silent protest against police brutality and racial injustice. In the two years that followed, many of his fellow players joined him in these protests, but NFL teams subsequently refused to sign Kaepernick for the following season.
Kaepernick is now alleging that Trump's conversations with NFL owners, in which he encouraged them to punish players for kneeling during the national anthem, shaped league owners' refusal to sign him. Trump recently applauded the NFL for its new national anthem policy, which stated that clubs could face fines if their players did not stand for the anthem. He has also argued in the past that the NFL should have suspended Kaepernick for kneeling, suggesting that the quarterback had disrespected the flag and the country by doing so.
Earlier this year, the New York Times obtained a recording of a meeting held between NFL players, owners, and league executives back in October. According to the Times, the meeting addressed protests against the national anthem — and, more specifically, Trump's denunciation of the protests. The meeting, per Axios' assessment of the Times report, appeared to indicate that league owners were extremely concerned about the impact Trump's remarks would have on the league — and it was these concerns that led to the NFL's new national anthem policy.
Yahoo Sports reported that multiple league owners also had direct discussions with Trump about players kneeling during the national anthem. As a result, Kaepernick's lawyers are reportedly planning to seek federal subpoenas against Trump and Pence, as well as any other officials familiar with Trump's involvement in the NFL's national anthem policy. His lawyers specifically want to know if Trump exerted any pressure on league owners, according to the New York Post.
However, both Axios and Yahoo Sports noted that getting testimony from Trump could prove difficult for Kaepernick and his lawyers. Collective bargaining laws only apply to negotiations between an employer and employees — in this case, between the NFL and Kaepernick.
For Kaepernick to obtain a subpoena from someone like Trump, outside the scope of his contract with the NFL, he would have to be granted permission by an arbitrator in his collusion case. And even if he is able to obtain a subpoena, Trump could choose to ignore it, or he could argue — as his lawyer Rudy Giuliani already has — that Trump can't be subpoenaed by Kaepernick or by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
According to Bloomberg, Kaepernick and his former teammate, Eric Reid, are expected to initially give the White House a chance to submit a voluntary deposition. If they refuse, attorneys for Kaepernick and Reid — who is also a free agent after having joined Kaepernick in his protests — will then seek federal subpoenas.
As Yahoo Sports pointed out, it is unlikely that Trump would voluntarily provide a deposition, as it exposes him to the possibility that he could somehow be linked to NFL owners' refusal to give Kaepernick a job. Meanwhile, Trump has also been renewing his attacks on players who protest the national anthem, saying that perhaps they shouldn't even be in the country.