(Reuters) – Upset at what he called preconditions imposed by the National Football League, quarterback Colin Kaepernick at the last minute moved his scheduled tryout on Saturday away from the Atlanta Falcons training facility to a local high school where media could attend.
The former starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers is seeking a return to the NFL three years after his protests against racial injustice roiled the sport.
He has contended that teams would not sign him because they wanted to distance themselves from the protests, which U.S. President Donald Trump criticized as unpatriotic and disrespectful.
The NFL said it had arranged the tryout so clubs could evaluate the 32-year-old’s talent, but Kaepernick’s representatives accused the league of not acting in a forthright manner in organizing the workout.
“From the outset, Mr. Kaepernick requested a legitimate process and from the outset the NFL league office has not provided one,” they said in a statement.
“Most recently, the NFL has demanded that as a precondition to the workout, Mr. Kaepernick sign an unusual liability waiver that addresses employment-related issues and rejected the standard liability waiver from physical injury proposed by Mr. Kaepernick’s representatives.”
The statement said Kaepernick had requested all media be allowed into the workout to observe and film it but the NFL had denied the request.
The NFL said it was informed of Kaepernick’s decision 30 minutes before the workout was to begin.
“We are disappointed that Colin did not appear for his workout,” the league said in a statement, saying it had made considerable effort to work cooperatively with Kaepernick’s representatives.
“Colin’s decision has no effect on his status in the league. He remains an unrestricted free agent eligible to sign with any club,” the statement added.
Representatives from at least 25 of the NFL’s 32 teams had been scheduled to attend the workout, which attracted widespread media interest.
Protesters and supporters had waited for Kaepernick outside the facility.
One protester, waving a U.S. flag, held a sign that said “Colin Kaepernick un-American Loser. Get out of my town”.
Supporters included one follower wearing a Kaepernick jersey and displaying a sign that read “I’m with Kap”.
KNELT DURING ANTHEM
Among the first players to kneel during the pregame U.S. national anthem in protest against extrajudicial killings of black people by police, Kaepernick has been unable to find a team to sign him since 2017.
A second-round draft choice in 2011, he played with the 49ers for six seasons, leading them to the 2013 Super Bowl and the National Football Conference title game the next season.
During the third preseason game in 2016 he began sitting during the U.S. anthem.
The following week and during regular season, Kaepernick began kneeling as protest against social injustice.
He became a free agent after the 2016 season and remains unsigned.
Kaepernick filed a collusion grievance against NFL owners in October 2017 after going unsigned as a free agent. The two sides resolved the grievance in February under a confidentiality agreement.
Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina, editing by Ed Osmond and Nick Zieminski