Colin Kaepernick set to RETURN to the NFL field - on Titans player's cleats: Embattled free agent's former college teammate pays tribute to his 'ultimate sacrifice'

  • Tennessee Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews will wear cleats bearing Colin Kaepernick's name and likeness on the field in Nashville this weekend?
  • It will be a part of the NFL's 'My Cause, My Cleats' campaign - an opportunity for players to publicize causes and charities they support
  • Matthews and Kaepernick are former college teammates at Nevada?
  • The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback has been a free agent since March this year when he opted out of his contract
  • Kaepernick began protesting inequality and police brutality against minorities by first sitting and then kneeling during the national anthem throughout the 2016 season
  • Matthews has remained in the locker room on six occasions during the anthem
  • The son and brother of veterans, Matthews has been publicly supportive of the armed services ?

Embattled free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick isn't returning to the NFL quite yet, but his name and image will be on the field in Nashville this Sunday thanks to Tennessee Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews.

Matthews, a former college teammate of Kaepernick's at Nevada, will take part in the NFL's 'My Cause, My Cleats' campaign by donning a pair of spikes with the former San Francisco 49ers star's name and likeness, he announced Wednesday on Instagram.

'I dont have a foundation so [I] have chosen to support my brother @kaepernick7 foundation @yourrightscamp for #MyCauseMyCleats,' Matthews wrote of Kaepernick, who has remained unsigned since opting out of his contract with the 49ers in March.

The 'Know Your Rights Camp' is a campaign that Kaepernick funded to 'raise awareness on higher education, self empowerment, and instruction to properly interact with law enforcement in various scenarios,' according to the organization's website. ??

'He has paid the ultimate sacrifice in order to bring true everyday issues to light,' Tennessee Titans receiver Rishard Matthews wrote of Colin Kaepernick. 'Please follow the page & go to the website to learn more. We Should ALL Know Our Rights & Be Able to Express Them Freely'

'He has paid the ultimate sacrifice in order to bring true everyday issues to light,' Tennessee Titans receiver Rishard Matthews wrote of Colin Kaepernick. 'Please follow the page & go to the website to learn more. We Should ALL Know Our Rights & Be Able to Express Them Freely'

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews

Rishard?Matthews (right), played with Colin Kaepernick (left) at Nevada, and will take part in the NFL's 'My Cause, My Cleats' campaign by donning a pair of spikes with the former San Francisco 49ers star's name and likeness along with the words 'Know Your Rights Camp'

Kaepernick has been a controversial figure ever since he began peacefully protesting inequality and police brutality against minorities by first sitting and then kneeling during the national anthem throughout the 2016 NFL preseason and regular season.?

The protests were embraced by pockets of players around the league and continued into the 2017 season despite the public criticism from President Donald Trump, who referred to the protesting players as 'Sons of b******' during a speech in Alabama.

Despite a series of injuries and general poor play among NFL quarterbacks this season, Kaepernick has remained unsigned. Consequently, the 30-year old has filed a lawsuit against the NFL, accusing all 32 owners of conspiring to prevent him from returning to the league in retaliation for igniting the controversial protests.

'He has paid the ultimate sacrifice in order to bring true everyday issues to light,' Matthews wrote. 'Please follow the page & go to the website to learn more. We Should ALL Know Our Rights & Be Able to Express Them Freely.'

Kaepernick was named GQ's 'Citizen of the Year' after donating $900K of his $1 million pledge to organizations working within oppressed communities.

Matthews, who has remained in the locker room during the anthem on six occasions in 2017, previously threatened to retire if his right to protest was denied.

Rishard Matthews catching a pass from Colin Kaepernick in 2010

Kaepernick (left) and Matthews (right) were teammates at Nevada in 2010

According to since-deleted tweets, Matthews was asked if he would stand or remain in the locker room if the NFL made rules preventing players from protesting.

'No I will be done playing football,' Matthews wrote in an October tweet, which was captured by NFL blogger Paul Kuharsky.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said it's the league's position that everyone should stand for the anthem but he has not implemented any new rule requiring players to do so.

'I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,' he told Steve Wyche of NFL Media in August 2016. 'To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.'

Trump has accused the protesting players of disrespecting U.S. military veterans. However, Matthews' father reportedly served in the Marines for 23 years, and his brother was actually killed in Afghanistan while working as a private defense contractor in 2015 after previously serving in Iraq.

Last November Matthews posted a picture of himself saluting on Instagram with a picture of his deceased brother superimposed over his likeness.

'I Will Forever Salute You,' Matthews wrote in the caption.

Matthews has also reportedly donated $75,000 to charities aimed at addressing inequality.

A vocal supporter of American veterans, Matthews' father served in the Marines for 23 years. Furthermore, his brother was actually killed in Afghanistan while working as a private defense contractor in 2015 after previously serving in Iraq

A vocal supporter of American veterans, Matthews' father served in the Marines for 23 years. Furthermore, his brother was actually killed in Afghanistan while working as a private defense contractor in 2015 after previously serving in Iraq

Last November Matthews posted a picture of himself saluting on Instagram with a picture of his deceased brother superimposed over his likeness. 'I Will Forever Salute You,' he wrote

Last November Matthews posted a picture of himself saluting on Instagram with a picture of his deceased brother superimposed over his likeness. 'I Will Forever Salute You,' he wrote

In six seasons, Kaepernick helped guide the 49ers to three NFC championship games and one Super Bowl while completing 59.8 percent of his passes and 72 touchdown passes. He also threw only 30 interceptions over that time, helping him to post a very respectable quarterback rating of 88.9.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and injured Green Bay Packers signal caller Aaron Rodgers have both stated they believe Kaepernick has the ability to continue starting in the NFL. Brady declined to say whether or not Kaepernick is being blackballed, but Rodgers told ESPN?that the protests are likely the only reason he's not in the NFL.?

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will be deposed as part of Kaepernick's collusion case against the football league.

Goodell, several owners and at least two NFL executives will have to turn over cellphone records and emails in relation to the case, a legal insider told ESPN.

NFL owners who will be deposed include Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, New England's Robert Kraft, Bob McNair of the Houston Texans, Seattle's Paul Allen and San Francisco's Jed York.

The owners were selected based on their public statements about Kaepernick or players protesting during the pre-game national anthem.

Along with Goodell, league executives who will be disposed include executive vice president/football operations Troy Vincent and senior vice president of player engagement Arthur McAfee, the insider told ESPN.

Tennessee Titans defensive back Logan Ryan (26), inside linebacker Wesley Woodyard (59) and defensive end Jurrell Casey (99) raise their fists after the playing of the national anthem

Tennessee Titans defensive back Logan Ryan (26), inside linebacker Wesley Woodyard (59) and defensive end Jurrell Casey (99) raise their fists after the playing of the national anthem

President Donald Trump has criticized protesting NFL players, calling them 'sons of b******'

President Donald Trump has criticized protesting NFL players, calling them 'sons of b******'

Recently Kaepernick's attorney Mark Geragos predicted his client's imminent return to the NFL.?

'I think within the next 10 days somebody will sign him,' Garagos told the Adam Carolla podcast?in late October. 'I think somebody's gonna sign him. I think the NFL has to come to their senses, and realize every day that goes by just proves the collusion case even more.'

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will be deposed as part of Kaepernick's lawsuit against the league?

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will be deposed as part of Kaepernick's lawsuit against the league?

According to the lawsuit, '[The owners] have colluded to deprive Mr. Kaepernick of employment rights in retaliation for Mr. Kaepernick's leadership and advocacy for equality and social justice and his bringing awareness to peculiar institutions still undermining racial equality in the United States.'

NFL ratings are down for the season, but it's difficult to say that the controversial protests are the only factor.

Viewership was down about 5 percent over the first seven weeks of the NFL season, according to CNN. However, that decline is part of an overall downtick in ratings across all networks.

Fox's primetime viewership was down 20 percent through the first month of the new television season, according to Nielsen data, while ABC (11 percent), CBS (6 percent), and NBC (four percent) have all seen a decline as well.

The NFL's ratings have even recovered somewhat in recent weeks, as Seattle and Atlanta's recent 'Monday Night Football' game drew a 7.2 in metered markets for ESPN, according to Deadline.com. That was a 16 percent rise over the Miami-Carolina MNF game a week earlier.

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