Renowned activist and athlete with the all-time NFL record for most rushing yards in a game by a quarterback. Captured the attention of the world when he took a knee to fight oppression.
Colin Kaepernick was born in Milwaukee, Wis., in 1987 to a white mother and an African American father who was absent before Kaepernick was born. His mother put him up for adoption, and at 5 weeks old he was placed with the Kaepernick family, who eventually adopted him. They moved to California, and by his senior year in high school, he had been nominated for all-state selection in football, basketball, and baseball. He went on to the University of Nevada, where he excelled in his business management classes and on the football field. By the time he graduated in 2011, he had amassed 10,098 passing yards, 82 passing touchdowns, 24 interceptions, and 59 rushing touchdowns.
Kaepernick was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers and played with the team for six seasons. In 2016, in the wake of the fatal police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the acquittal of police in the death of Freddie Gray, Kaepernick began sitting down during the U.S. national anthem as a form of protest against police brutality and racial inequality. Then, at the 49ers’ final preseason game on September 1, 2016, Kaepernick opted to kneel during the anthem, a gesture that rippled throughout the country. Other NFL players and pro athletes began conducting various forms of silent protests, many joining Kaepernick in taking a knee.
For his stance, Kaepernick has been denied employment by the NFL, but he has not been deterred from his fight. Since 2016, he has founded and helped to fund organizations that advance the liberation of Black and Brown people through storytelling, systems change, and political education, such as Ra Vision Media, Kaepernick Publishing, and Know Your Rights Camp, a free campaign to raise awareness about higher education, self-empowerment, and how to interact with law enforcement in various scenarios. In 2018, he completed his Million Dollar Pledge, where he personally donated $1 million to 37 different organizations fighting for justice. He also rallied the support of many friends including Alicia Keys, Kobe Bryant, Serena Williams, Steph Curry, and more, who matched his donations to raise an additional $400,000-plus to help these organizations continue their important work.
In addition to breaking records in football, Kaepernick has accumulated numerous prestigious honors, including Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award, GQ magazine’s “Citizen of the Year,” the NFL’s Len Eshmont Award, the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, and the ACLU’s Eason Monroe Courageous Advocate Award.
In April 2022, Scholastic will release I Color Myself Different, a picture book inspired by one of Kaepernick’s significant childhood memories—when he drew his family with the yellow crayon and then picked up the brown crayon to draw himself. Kaepernick says about the book, “I hope that it honors the courage and bravery of young people everywhere by encouraging them to live with authenticity and purpose.”
“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.”
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