The story of Colin Kaepernick is one that inspires and infuriates me in equal measure. He was drafted into the NFL as a backup quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers in 2011. The following year, he became the 49ers’ starting quarterback, and led the team to their first Super Bowl appearance in many years. He is, by all accounts, an excellent quarterback, one who should’ve enjoyed as long a career in the NFL as he wanted. Except: In 2016, Kaepernick began kneeling during the National Anthem as a silent protest against the many injustices committed on American soil by Americans. That kick-started a maelstrom of reactions — many athletes followed suit, while many prominent folks (including, um, the President) criticized the man using unsubtly coded racist language. Kaepernick became a free agent the following year, and has never played for an NFL team since — all in reaction, no doubt, to his protests. Infuriating.
But in the meantime… Kaepernick has become an invaluable figure in the fight for social justice. He regularly makes philanthropic efforts toward good causes, challenging celebrities to follow his lead. He co-founded the Know Your Rights Camp, an organization which helped empower disadvantaged folks in Oakland, and has donated tons to the fight against Covid. His Colin Kaepernick Foundation is the hub of all of his social justice fights, and a wonderful one it is. Kaepernick is a figure worth celebrating and amplifying — which is why I am beyond inspired to hear he has signed a first-look deal with Disney.
With this deal, Kaepernick aims to produce “scripted and unscripted stories that explore race, social injustice and the quest for equity, and will provide a new platform to showcase the work of Black and Brown directors and producers.” The first project in development is an ESPN documentary about Kaepernick’s journey in and out of the NFL, but Kaepernick’s deal is not wholly encumbered by sports content for ESPN. He will also produce and generate stories for all of Walt Disney Television, Hulu, Pixar, and The Undefeated. This is exemplary news for the types of stories we’ll see, and the types of storytellers who will tell them — especially given the whiteness of Pixar directors who have crafted otherwise culturally authentic films for the studio.
Kaepernick himself said this:
I am excited to announce this historic partnership with Disney across all of its platforms to elevate Black and Brown directors, creators, storytellers, and producers, and to inspire the youth with compelling and authentic perspectives. I look forward to sharing the docuseries on my life story, in addition to many other culturally impactful projects we are developing.
By reclaiming his story and promising to lift up the voices of storytellers around him, Kaepernick indeed proves himself as a figure of vast inspiration, one whom kids, athletes and artists alike, should look up to. I can’t wait to see the stuff that comes from this partnership.
For more in the world of sports entertainment, here’s intel on an upcoming Magic Johnson documentary.