Former NFL Player and Civil Rights Activist
Colin Kaepernick is a civil rights activist and football quarterback who is a free agent. He played six seasons for the San Francisco 49ers in the National Football League (NFL). As a political activist, he knelt during the national anthem at the start of NFL games in protest of police brutality and racial inequality in the United States.
Kaepernick played college football for the Nevada Wolf Pack, where he was named the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Offensive Player of the Year twice and became the only player in NCAA Division I FBS history to amass 10,000 passing yards and 4,000 rushing yards in a career. After graduating, he was selected by the 49ers in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Kaepernick began his professional football career as a backup quarterback to Alex Smith, and became the 49ers’ starter in the middle of the 2012 season after Smith suffered a concussion. He then remained the team’s starting quarterback for the rest of the season, leading the team to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1994. During the 2013 season, his first full season as a starter, Kaepernick helped the 49ers reach the NFC Championship Game. Over the next three seasons, Kaepernick lost and won back his starting job, with the 49ers missing the playoffs for three years consecutively.
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 systematic oppression in the country. The following week, and throughout the regular season, Kaepernick kneeled during the anthem. The protests received highly polarized reactions, with some praising him and his stand against racism and others denouncing the protests. The actions resulted in a wider protest movement, which intensified in September 2017 after President Donald Trump said that NFL owners should “fire” players who protest during the national anthem. Kaepernick became a free agent after the season and remained unsigned, which numerous analysts and observers have attributed to political reasons. In November 2017, he filed a grievance against the NFL and its owners, accusing them of colluding to keep him out of the league. Kaepernick withdrew the grievance in February 2019 after reaching a confidential settlement with the NFL. His protests received renewed attention in 2020 amid the George Floyd protests against police brutality and racism but, as of January 2021, remains unsigned by any professional football team.