Colin Rand Kaepernick, a professional football quarterback formerly for the San Francisco (California) 49ers of the National Football League (NFL), is currently a free agent. He played collegiate football at the University of Nevada where he twice was named the Western Athletic Offensive Player of the Year and the Most Valuable Player of the 2008 Humanitarian Bowl. Kaepernick was selected by the 49ers in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. In 2016 he gained national attention when he began protesting racial oppression by not standing when the United States national anthem was played at the start of games. His protests were eventually copied by hundreds of professional and amateur athletes across the nation.
Colin Kaepernick was born November 3, 1987, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Heidi (Zabransky) Russo, a nineteen-year-old woman and an unnamed African American father who left the family before he was born. Russo put him up for adoption. Rick and Teresa Kaepernick, a white couple who had two children, Kyle, a son, and a daughter, Devon, adopted him. Kaepernick became the youngest of their three children. Kaepernick attended John H. Pitman High School in Turlock, California, where he played football, basketball, and baseball while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. After high school, Kaepernick attended the University of Nevada, Reno in Reno, Nevada. He played for the Nevada Wolfpack football team until 2010 when he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business management. While at the University of Nevada, Reno, he became a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.
In the 2011 NFL draft, the San Francisco 49ers traded with the Denver (Colorado) Broncos to select Kaepernick. He was taken as the fourth pick of the second round (#36 overall). Initially, he was a backup quarterback for Alex Smith. In week 10 of the 2012 season, he started when Smith was injured. Kaepernick led the team to a 24-24 tie with the St. Louis (now Los Angeles) Rams. Because of his performance, Kaepernick started for the 49ers for the rest of the season and led the team to Super Bowl 47 where they lost to the Baltimore (Maryland) Ravens. The next season, he led the 49ers to the NFC Championship game where they lost to the eventual Super Bowl champions, the Seattle (Washington) Seahawks.
On June 4, 2014, Kaepernick signed a six-year contract extension with the 49ers, worth up to $126 million, including $54 million in potential guarantees, and $13 million fully guaranteed. He remained with the 49ers going into the 2016 NFL season where he made national headlines before a preseason game when he sat down instead of standing during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” His controversial action inspired other players in the NFL and athletes from other sports to protest the anthem as well, but it also led to an ugly backlash. The impact of Kaepernick’s protest was said to be the reason for the decline in television ratings during the 2016 NFL season. Also thousands of NFL fans boycotted games to protest Kaepernick’s actions. He received death threats and was assigned a police security unit at virtually every game in which he appeared.
Kaepernick also drew some criticism for not voting during the 2016 United States presidential election. He explained his reason for not voting by saying it didn’t matter if Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump won the election because the economic and political system of the United States will continue to oppress people of color.
Kaepernick was released by the San Francisco 49ers at the end of the 2016 season and has not been signed to play with any other NFL teams.