When you think about modern day activists, one of the first names that surely comes to mind is Colin Kaepernick. The inspirational figure turns 35 today. We celebrate him and his legacy with some of our favorite photos of him.
Colin Kaepernick was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Heidi Russo, a white woman and his unknown African-American father. At 5 weeks, Kaepernick was adopted by a white couple named Rick and Teresa Kaepernick. The family continued living in Wisconsin until Colin was four when they moved to California. At the age of eight, he began playing youth football. He was a 4.0 student at John H. Pitman High School where he played football, basketball and baseball, being nominated for all-state in all three sports his senior year. He received several baseball scholarship offers, but decided that he wanted to play college football. After redshirting his freshman year in 2006, Colin went on to play four great years at the University of Nevada. In 2009, he was selected in the 43rd round of the Major League Baseball draft. He once again chose to continue playing baseball instead of signing with the Chicago Cubs. He maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout his years in college and graduated in 2011. Later that year, he was selected 36th overall in the NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers.
His first season with the 49ers was spent as a backup. In his second season, he was thrust into the starting quarterback position when the normal starter got injured. He ended up leading the team to the Super Bowl, where they came up just short. The next year, the team got back to the NFC Championship Game, but unfortunately for the second straight year, lost to the eventual Super Bowl champions. The next two seasons weren’t too noteworthy for Kaepernick who suffered some major injuries. Leading up to the 2016 season, Kaepernick was active on social media with social commentary on the fatal police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the acquittal of police in the death of Freddie Gray. In the 49ers’ third preseason game in 2016, Kaepernick sat during the playing of the U.S. national anthem prior to the game, rather than stand as is customary, as a protest against racial injustice, police brutality and oppression in the country. The following week, and throughout the regular season, Kaepernick kneeled during the anthem.
Kaepernick received highly polarized reactions, with some praising him and his stand against racism and others denouncing the protests. He became a free agent after the season and remained unsigned, which majority of analysts attributed to political reasons. In late 2017, he filed a grievance against the NFL and its owners with accusations stating they colluded to keep him out of the league. He withdrew it it two years later after both sides reached a confidential settlement. Since then, Kaepernick has continued to stand against racial injustices, police brutality and oppression. He has donated millions of dollars to organizations working in oppressed communities. He and his partner Nessa also founded the “Know Your Rights Camp,” an organization which held free seminars to disadvantaged youths to teach them about self-empowerment, American history, and legal rights. Kaepernick’s efforts to bring awareness to the issues this country continues to face have inspired so many other athletes to use their platforms and speak out against social issues. Kaepernick has received numerous awards for his activism and has been featured in numerous campaigns to promote equality. His legacy will live on forever and we want to thank him for his willingness to step up and speak out, even if it meant losing his career and money. We thank him for being a role model. We want to celebrate him today and forever. Enjoy a gallery of some of our favorite photos of him. HAPPY 35TH BIRTHDAY KAEP!