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Colin Kaepernick is one of the most prolific public figures of our time. The accomplished NFL quarterback became an exemplary model of what it means to stand for what you believe in when he began sitting during the national anthem at the start of the 2016 NFL preseason in protest of police brutality before switching to the act of kneeling.
”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 NFL Media after the San Francisco 49ers lost a game to the Green Bay Packers in 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.”
The killings of Philando Castille and Alton Sterling by police were among more than 250 police shootings that happened that year.
His act wasn’t well-received by the San Francisco 49ers though, and his protest was shrouded in controversy as the franchise made attempts to bar him from ever playing in the league again. The great talent remains a free agent today.
Despite it all, Kaepernick’s intentions to bring light to the systematic racism black Americans and other people of color endure in the country continues through his volunteer and charity work.
Colin Kaepernick is truly what legends are made of and here are seven reasons he will forever be one.
1. He took a knee
Kaepernick’s decision to courageously take a knee during the national anthem before the start of NFL games was never about himself. He understood his influence and was clearly impacted by the onslaught of black and brown bodies being killed in the streets by police forces across America without proper justice.
“This is not something that I am going to run by anybody,” he said in a press conference after the Green Bay Packer game. “I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”
Kaepernick was eventually blackballed from the league, unfortunately, and his recent attempt to get back into the NFL was a distracting media circus.
Nevertheless, his actions did bring awareness to police brutality in a way that his message was heard by the more than 16 million viewers who watch the NFL every Sunday.
It was the catalyst to ignite a much needed discourse about race relations in America.
2. He founded the “Know Your Rights Camp”
Kaepernick is someone whose actions have continued to speak louder than his words. Shortly after his protest gained recognition, he launched the Know Your Rights Camp with 10 emboldened tenets modeled after the Black Panther’s “Ten-Point Program” titled 10 Points. The points range from the first one, “You have the right to be free” to the last one, “You have the right to know your rights.”
“Our mission is to advance the liberation and well-being of black and brown communities through education, self-empowerment, mass-mobilization and the creation of new systems that elevate the next generation of change leaders,” Know Your Rights Camp’s mission statement reads on their website.
The quarterback held the first camp for underprivileged children from the Bay Area in 2016 and recently held the last camp in Atlanta this past October, empowering over 450 youth with the knowledge of the law, finances and health.
3. Brought the movement to Nike
When Nike made Kaep the face of their 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign in 2018, the awareness of America’s existing racial inequalities was amplified and it made President Donald Trump pretty upset.
The controversial ad, espoused with the slogan, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. Just Do It,” won a Creative Arts Emmy for best commercial and the former NFL player’s relationship with Nike continues today.
Ahead of Christmas in 2019, the 32-year-old activist unleashed specially designed black leather, Air Force 1 sneakers with “08 14 16” marked on them, signifying the first date he didn’t stand during the playing of the national anthem. The sneakers sold-out in minutes.
4. He was given the 2018 Ambassador of Conscience Award
In 2018, the activist was awarded the highest accolade from global human rights organization Amnesty International, the Ambassador of Conscience Award, which “celebrates individuals and groups who speak out for justice.”
The activist now lies among luminaries such as South Africa president Nelson Mandela, and Pakistan education activist and assassination survivor Malala Yousafzai.
Not only that, in 2017, GQ crowned Kaep as “Citizen of the Year,” pointing out that “Colin Kaepernick’s determined stand puts him in rare company in sports history: Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson — athletes who risked everything to make a difference.”
5. He’s A W.E.B. Du Bois Medal recipient
In 2018, Kaepernick was awarded Harvard University’s prestigious W.E.B. Du Bois Medal at the sixth annual Hutchins Center Honors for being the one to spark a debate about free speech, patriotism and police brutality.
The medal is give to individuals “in recognition of their contributions to African and African American culture” and he did just that with his protests. Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou and Ava DuVernay are among past W.E.B. Du Bois Medal recipients, and he continues to spread his message of equality and justice.
6. He made NFL history
Kaepernick was making history on the football field before he was making history in black history. At the beginning of his NFL career, he broke Michael Vick’s single-game record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in 2012. Kaep broke Vick’s 173 rushing yard record with his 181.
In a 2016 game against the Miami Dolphins, he joined the ranks of Michael Vick, Cam Newton, Randall Cunningham, and Marcus Mariota as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to complete three passing touchdowns and 100 rushing yards. There’s no doubt about Colin’s football prowess.
7. He gave away food during the 2020 Super Bowl
While the San Francisco 49ers played against the Kansas City Chiefs at Super Bowl LIV in Miami Gardens, Florida this year, Kaep chose to serve the community in New York City with clothes and hot meals.
First, the former Niner stopped by Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture with the charity 100 Suits for 100 Men. Then, Kaepernick and a few Know Your Rights Camp participants hit the Lower East Side Girls Club of New York where they served food.
The revolutionary may not have been on the field to play, but his impact was still felt. The NFL finally chose to address the epidemic of police killing unarmed black people with a public service announcement by using the case of white Dallas police Amber Guyger killing Botham Jean, a black man, while he sat on his couch eating ice cream in his own apartment.