It’s been nearly four years since Turlock native Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the national anthem shocked the nation — an act the former 49ers quarterback stated was in protest of oppression and injustice against people of color in America. Now, current events have thrust the Pitman High School grad and his peaceful demonstration back into the spotlight and soon onto Netflix’s list of shows.
It was August 2016 when Kaepernick first made headlines upon refusing to stand for the anthem during a preseason contest, telling NFL Media after the game that he was not going to “stand up and show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way,” he continued. “There are bodies in the street and people getting away with murder.”
Kaepernick’s protest continued for the duration of the season and became a point of contention among many Americans, as supporters of the protest clashed with those who viewed it as disrespectful to the military. Following the 2016 season, the 49ers told Kaepernick that they planned to release him and he opted out of his contract on March 3, 2017. He became a free agent six days later and hasn’t played in an NFL game since, which has led to years of accusations of “blackballing,” denials and litigation between the league and Kaepernick.
Following the death of George Floyd in May and subsequent nationwide protests calling for police reform, many have adopted a new outlook on Kaepernick’s protest as riots and looting dominated news coverage — even the NFL. Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a June 5 video statement that the league was “wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier” on racial injustice issues, and though he didn’t mention Kaepernick by name, he stated two weeks later that he encourages a team to sign the quarterback.
While there have been reports of several organizations expressing interest in Kaepernick, he has yet to sign a contract with a team. That hasn’t kept him from staying busy, however; aside from working with his nonprofit Know Your Rights Camp, Netflix announced on Monday that Kaepernick will be the subject of a six-part series produced by acclaimed director Ava DuVernay titled “Colin in Black and White.”
The show will explore Kaepernick’s years at PHS and attempt to show the experiences and insights that led to his activism, according to Netflix. Kaepernick will serve as an executive producer for the series, which was written by Michael Starrbury, and appear as a narrator. DuVernay and Starrbury previously worked together on the Emmy-winning Netflix miniseries “When They See us” about the Central Park Five case.
"Too often we see race and Black stories portrayed through a white lens," Kaepernick said in a release. "We seek to give new perspective to the differing realities that Black people face. We explore the racial conflicts I faced as an adopted Black man in a white community, during my high school years. It's an honor to bring these stories to life in collaboration with Ava for the world to see."
Kaepernick attended PHS from 2002-2006, where he was a star athlete in both football and baseball. Upon making it to the NFL and eventually starting for the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, he was celebrated by Turlock residents in every corner of the city: schools placed signs of support along their fences and Kaepernick was even given the key to the city in 2014. His jersey was hung in restaurants, bakeries sold cookies shaped like his jersey and Main Street Footers honored him with his own menu item called the “Kap Dog.”
Since then, the cookies have been removed from the shelves, Kaepernick’s hot dog was taken off the menu and little remains around town of Turlock’s one-time golden boy. Still, supporters remain and others have changed their minds about his protest in light of recent events. That support is evident through a Change.org petition calling for a Kaepernick mural in Turlock that has amassed 1,500 signatures on Tuesday and it was created Monday.
“Now it is time to show Kaepernick the respect and love that should have never ceased,” the petition states. “We hope to make our city more beautiful as we highlight Kaepernick’s undying courage in the fight against racial inequality…Please don’t let Turlock continue to turn their back on Kaepernick. Let’s show our hometown hero the respect he deserves.”