Colin Kaepernick and “Change the Game”

In 2016, football player Colin Kaepernick knelt on one knee during the National Anthem at a football game. He did this as a public reminder of the nation’s history of racism and a protest of police behavior towards African Americans. This began a national discussion about politics, sports, and symbolic protests. Some athletes supported and participated in Kaepernick’s protest in the following weeks. Other Americans, however, saw Kaepernick’s actions as disrespectful to the nation.  

After Kaepernick’s football career ended, he focused his professional life on activism and publishing. Here, btw takes a closer look at a new graphic memoir for young adults called Colin Kaepernick: Change the Game

Changing the Game 

Change the Game tells the story of Kaepernick’s final year of high school. At the time, he was a successful high school pitcher. He was being scouted by colleges and major league baseball. His family assumed that he would pursue baseball as a professional athlete. But Kaepernick made the surprising decision to switch gears and play football instead. He went on to play for the University of Nevada, and as the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers. 

Colin Kaepernick (center), and teammates knelt during the  National Anthem in 2016.
In 2016. Eli Harold, Colin Kaepernick (center), and Eric Reid knelt during the pregame National Anthem performance.

Why did Kaepernick make the choice to switch to football when he was already a successful baseball player? Changing the Game explains that he believed football was a sport that would allow him to more fully embrace his racial heritage and cultural identity. He worried that he would have less support to do this in professional baseball. Kaepernick says that he wrote the book to help encourage young people to overcome obstacles and become who they truly want to be. 

Beyond Football 

This is not Kaepernick’s first  move into the publishing world. In fact, he started his own publishing company, Kaepernick Publishing, in 2019. The company’s goal was to publish and promote diverse voices. In 2022, he made bestseller lists with I Color Myself Different, a children’s book based on his life that tackles the complex topics of adoption, racial identity, and acceptance. Kaepernick grew up in an adopted family and moved from Wisconsin to California before he entered kindergarten. 

Kaepernick’s contract with the San Francisco 49ers was not renewed following the National Anthem protest controversy. Despite holding the all-time NFL record for most rushing yards in a game by a quarterback, Kaepernick was unable to secure a spot on another NFL team. He now promotes civil rights and social reforms. Kaepernick’s activism has been recognized with several awards, including Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Ripple of Hope Honor, GQ Magazine’s “Citizen of the Year,” and more. He has also raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for nonprofit organizations that promote equity. 

Change the Game is co-authored with Eve L. Ewing and illustrated by Orlando Caicedo. It is scheduled to be released in March 2023. 

Dig Deeper Use the Internet or your school’s library resources to find historical examples of athletes who protested social or racial issues. Some names to get you started in your research include Billy Jean King, Shawn Green, and Muhammad Ali.