Akiem Hicks finally said what everybody’s been thinking for three years.
Amid a thoughtful, eloquent half-hour of Hicks tackling racial unrest in America and NFL teams refusing to give Colin Kaepernick a shot because he protested police brutality, the Bears’ star defensive tackle blurted one of the most revealing things he could say about his team bypassing Kaepernick.
“We signed Mike Glennon,” Hicks said.
Hicks was advocating for the NFL to make things right with Kaepernick either by a team signing him or the league hiring him to influence its social justice initiatives, then there was a long pause before he let it fly on general manager Ryan Pace’s ill-fated decision to sign Glennon in 2017.
He might not have even meant to say it out loud, but in typical Hicks style, he stuck by it.
“You heard that, huh?” he said. “Yeah, I said that. It was a feeling.”
It was one of many powerful points in Hicks’ first comments since Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd last week, triggering protests across the country.
In football, the events brought Kaepernick’s situation back to the forefront. He had an electric run with the 49ers in 2012 and ’13, including a Super Bowl appearance, and played well enough in ’16 that there would have been interest under normal circumstances.
Instead, teams were so bothered by him kneeling during the national anthem that they shunned a player who threw 16 touchdown passes against four interceptions and was 17th in the NFL with a 90.7 passer rating in 12 games on an otherwise terrible team.
“I think he would have gotten a good deal if he had not protested,” Hicks said. “Does he have all the qualifications that we seem to be looking for in NFL quarterbacks? Athletic. He can get the ball down the field. I think that he fits a lot of those categories.
“Do I know if he would have gotten a huge deal and gone onto be a Hall of Fame quarterback? I don’t know these things. I just know that when he took a knee, he was silenced — or they attempted to silence him.”
In the Bears’ case, they preferred Glennon despite him being mediocre at best. They signed him to three-year, $45 million deal only to bench him after four games and cut him at the end of the season.
While Kaepernick has been exiled, by the way, Glennon has been signed by the Cardinals, Raiders and Jaguars.
“When Kaepernick was taking a knee I had the same thought that 85-90 percent of the league thought at that moment,” Hicks said. “If I get down on one knee in front of this stadium, I am fired. My job, my career, my life is over. I will be blackballed.
“And then to come out on the other end and watch it actually happen to Kaepernick, it just tells me my feelings were [right]. It was the reality, and hopefully it won’t be going forward.
“What I will say is this, though: It’s not a Chicago problem, it’s an entire-league problem. There’s 31 other teams.”
Hicks was hopeful on race relations, both within the league and society, and was buoyed by a team-wide Zoom call Monday. He is pleased overall about where things stand among Bears players.
“We do a good job, I think, of stopping separation — keeping guys together,” he said. “I’ll give you an example. Let’s talk about a position group like the tight ends, who have mainly been Caucasian. They’ll be sitting at a table and there will be three guys of the same ethnicity and they’re having lunch together, and you’re not thinking anything of it.
“But we have guys on the team that will break those barriers. I’ll go sit with them. Danny Trevathan will go sit with them… We’re all together in this.”