Colin Kaepernick

Kaitlyn Smith

Colin Kaepernick on Time magazine

Different life circumstances make us the way we are. Colin Kaepernick, a biracial man, was adopted by a white couple, Rick and Teresa Kaepernick, when he was born. Because he had no familial ties to his ethnicity and raised in the town of Turlock, California, where the racial demographic for African-Americans are less than two percent, curiosity and becoming informed about the status and treatment of people of color began forming.

During college, he met teammates who were people of color and were raised in a completely different background from his own. John Bender, an offensive lineman who played alongside Kaepernick states, “I saw him transform, develop, whatever you want to call it. Finding an identity was big for him, because in some aspects of life, he would get the racist treatment from white people because he was a black quarterback. And some people gave him the racist treatment because he was raised by a white family. So where does he fit in all this?”

During his junior year, he joined the prominent black fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi. Most of the members questioned his reasons. Being the star quarterback for the football team and an excelling student in business management, they thought he would likely quit because of the dedication that was needed. Kaepernick’s fraternity brother Olumide Ogundimu said that, “It’s definitely something that will shine a light on your weaknesses and shine a light on your strengths. He was all strength.”

Before his movement took off, he was a player that kept his opinions to himself and aimed to be a positive inspiration for people of all varieties to relate to and be able to stand behind as a person. Though he had garnered success from his football career, being a man of mixed race, he still had to defend himself over the racial undertones of the press and news media. A columnist stated that, “A quarterback is essentially the team’s chief executive, and you don’t want your C.E.O. to look like he just got paroled.”

Because of incidents like this, his public persona began to shift from what it was originally. He became short towards reporters and journalists, seeing no reason to share any information with them as it could become misconstrued and represent him as something that he was not. Eventually, because of his team’s season in 2014, he lost his starting position and was on the season-ending injury list.

Social media had slowly become a tool for Kaepernick to begin voicing more recent opinions that he was forming, mainly displaying his thanks and posting a photo of Malcolm X and a forewarning video of Tupac Shakur stating that, “I’m not saying I’m going to rule the world, or I’m going to change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world.” During this time, he also attended a summer course on the subject of black representation in popular culture at UC Berkeley. He was given help and support to be informed on these subjects by people like his girlfriend Nessa, who is more open about her feelings on the subject of the Black Lives Matter movement and, through recommendations from her and his professor Ameer Hasan Loggins, read books related to the issues. Even as a rookie in the NFL, he looked into other readings as well. “He was willing to work and study to kind of understand what was happening with his teammates, with other people, and how this whole thing rolled out over 400 years,” Edwards, the consultant for the 49er’s states.

He politicized himself, though people, “assume that he became politicized at U.C. Berkeley,” states Loggins. Kaepernick was aware within himself and wanted to become informed. He did this for himself, not for anyone else. His Twitter account in July 2016 showed public videos of the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile with tweets such as, “This is what lynching looks like in 2016! Another murder in the streets because the color of a man’s skin, at the hands of the people who they say will protect us. When will they be held accountable? Or did he fear for his life as he executed the man?” None of these reactions caused any controversy within the inner circles of the NFL during this time, mainly because of a sore shoulder that kept him out of the first two games of the season, where he sat down both times during the National Anthem. August 26th, 2016 was when a photographer captured him sitting on the bench. It wasn’t until the next game that he kneeled on the field.

People protesting the shooting death of Philando Castille by Jeronimo Yanez

Kaepernick voiced his reason for using his platform in this manner and standing alone on the issue. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. 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.” Some people believed it was an act of attention or unfair for a millionaire, who lived in the comfort of a white family, to protest on issues for Black rights.

Because of his performance throughout last season and knowing of his unlikeliness of making the team, he became a free agent on March 1st. The debate now is if Kaepernick is being kept out of the league because of politics, or if he simply isn’t good enough to play football because of his statistics.

Outside of football, Kaepernick donates to different charities once a month over the amount of $100,000. Though the charities vary broadly from one another, his donations show that Kaepernick backs up what he speaks. He also holds “Know Your Rights” camps for children where the main goal is “to raise awareness on higher education, self empowerment, and instruction to properly interact with law enforcement in various scenarios.” Because of this movement he began, Kaepernick found within his own ethnicity a way to identify who he is to himself and others that view him and visited the countries of Ghana, Egypt, and Morocco to embrace his African roots. “If people look at the real issue,” Brandon Marshall, Kaepernick’s college teammate, fraternity brother, and linebacker for the Denver Broncos says, “and look at what’s he doing in the community- the money he’s donating, the time he’s donating, the camps he’s putting on- they’d be like: ‘You know what? This dude’s a real stand-up guy.’”