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Who Is Colin Kaepernick?

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Learn about the inspiring life and career of professional football player and activist Colin Kaepernick in the new Who HQ Now format featuring newsmakers and trending topics.

On August 14, 2016, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began a protest when he refused to stand for the national anthem. He wanted to make a statement about the oppression of people of color in the United States after he had spent a summer speaking out against police brutality. After playing professional football for six seasons, that would become Colin Kaepernick's last season in the NFL, but he would go on to become one of the most prominent activists of today. Colin believed that speaking out against racism was far bigger than football, and other athletes agreed with him. Today, hundreds of athletes — from high schools to professional teams — still kneel during the national anthem to protest the treatment of people of color in America.

Discover more about Colin Kaepernick's story in this addition to the New York Times bestselling series.

ISBN-13: 9780593519400

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group

Publication Date: 05-03-2022

Pages: 56

Product Dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.20(d)

Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

Series: Who HQ Now Series

Lakita Wilson is a children's book author who has been awarded a SCBWI’s On-the-Verge Emerging Voices Award. She is an advocate for diverse and inclusive literature for kids. Lakita is also the author of What Is Black Lives Matter? in the Who HQ series.

Read an Excerpt

Who Is Colin Kaepernick?

As the United States national anthem began playing on August 14, 2016, professional football player Colin Kaepernick remained seated on the bench while his teammates stood and placed their hands over their hearts.

Although it is tradition, it’s not a requirement to play the national anthem before sporting events. Playing it has long been considered a way for United States citizens to show their respect and love for their country. However, Colin Kaepernick didn’t feel much love or respect for his country in that moment. A month earlier, two Black men—-Alton Sterling and Philando Castile—-had been unfairly targeted and killed by police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana. And no officers were ever found guilty of committing a crime.

Colin refused to stand for the pregame playing of the national anthem again on August 20 for the same reason. However, no one noticed Colin sitting out because he wasn’t wearing his football uniform. He had been injured and wasn’t going to play in the first two preseason games.

Things changed on August 26, 2016. Colin was due to play for the first time that season against the Green Bay Packers and had suited up in his game jersey. While the anthem played, Colin sat on the bench. A reporter named Jennifer Lee Chan tweeted out a photo of the football field during the anthem. Twitter users noticed Colin Kaepernick sitting on the bench. During the game, social media users all over the country wondered why Colin remained seated. After the game, Colin told reporters that he remained seated “to protest the injustices that are happening in America.”

Two days later, Colin gave more details during another interview with the press, where he explained that his protest was about giving a voice to people who weren’t being heard. He said people were dying because the United States wasn’t keeping their promise to provide freedom, justice, and liberty to all, citing the experiences of Black people. He told the media—-and the world—-that until he saw change, he would not stand up for the national anthem.

Many people became angry with Colin’s decision to sit out during the national anthem. They felt like Colin was disrespecting the American flag, the country, and the soldiers who fought for the country and the American people.

Colin said this wasn’t true. He said that he respected the American soldiers.

Colin ended his speech by saying he wouldn’t stop protesting until police brutality ends. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color.”

On August 30, Nate Boyer, a former soldier from the Green Beret unit of the United States Army, wrote Colin Kaepernick an open letter—a letter that is not private but available for the public to read as well. In Nate’s letter, he told Colin that although he was initially upset when the San Francisco 49ers quarterback sat during the anthem, he is now trying to listen and understand. In a later meeting with Colin, Nate offered a better way to protest, without disrespecting the soldiers. He said that soldiers take a knee in front of their fallen brothers’ graves to show respect. Colin agreed to compromise and protest this way.

In the final preseason game on September 1, 2016, Colin suited up in his football uniform to play against the San Diego Chargers. Colin Kaepernick, along with his teammate defensive back Eric Reid, took a knee while the national anthem played.

Chapter 1: A Kid Named Kap

Colin Kaepernick was born on November 3, 1987, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Colin’s birth father had left shortly after his birth mother became pregnant with Colin. Colin’s birth mother, nineteen—year—old Heidi, didn’t know how she would be able to take care of a new baby. So Heidi placed Colin up for adoption when he was five weeks old. A few towns over, in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, a couple were looking to adopt a baby.

Rick and Teresa Kaepernick already had a son and a daughter. But their last two sons had died shortly after birth. After grieving, Rick and Teresa decided to adopt their next baby. When they met Colin, the couple fell in love and brought him home to live with them. Teresa called Colin her “perfect child.”

But everything wasn’t perfect. Rick, Teresa, and their birth children were all white. Colin was biracial; his birth mother was white, and his birth father was Black. Having a different skin color than other family members can be difficult for kids who are a different race than their adoptive family. But Colin’s parents discussed his adoption with him early on. They frequently reminded their young son that his darker skin color reflected both his African American and white heritage—-all the parts of his background that made him Colin.

Rick and Teresa never treated Colin like he was white. They acknowledged his mixed—race background and made sure they listened to his requests for things that honored his Black heritage.

When Colin was four years old, the Kaepernick family moved to Turlock, California. In Fond du Lac, almost everyone had been white. Although more races were represented in Turlock, most of the people were still white. It was in this new town that Colin and his family began experiencing racism— or mistreatment based on a person’s race or ethnic group —from their neighbors and strangers. When playmates saw Colin’s brown skin compared to his parents’ white skin, they would ask, “Who’s your real mother?” Children and adults sometimes stared as Colin walked alongside his family.

After Colin showed an interest and natural talent in sports, Teresa and Rick Kaepernick signed him up for football when he was eight years old. Colin played as a defensive end and punter. At nine, his skills earned him the quarterback position on his youth league team. During football’s offseason, Colin also played Little League baseball. He played baseball just as well as he played football. So well that white parents often grumbled from the stands, making racist comments about the “Black kid” striking out their sons. When Colin’s mother heard their racist remarks, she made sure to call them out on their hate speech.

Although Colin was a great baseball player, football was his first love. When he was in fourth grade at Dutcher Elementary School, he even wrote a letter predicting he would someday play for one of his dream teams, the San Francisco 49ers.

Table of Contents

Who Is Colin Kaepernick? 1

A Kid Named Kap 6

Destined for the 49ers 12

Fed Up with Injustice 21

Time for Change 34

Know Your Rights 41

Timelines 46

Bibliography 48