Kaepernick became an activist figure in 2016 when he chose to sit and later kneel as the U.S. national anthem played before each 49ers game. The personal protest was his demonstration against police brutality and systemic racism in the United States — a civil right — but it didn't go over very well for the quarterback.
The end of the NFL season saw Kaepernick opting out of his contract and becoming a free agent, but he wasn't picked up by any other teams in the off-season or the following year. The athlete sued the league, claiming that the NFL was colluding to black ball him from playing because of his political protest. After a two year battle, he ultimately settled and withdrew his lawsuit.
He has yet to be signed to another team, but that just frees up his schedule to do even more work for the culture — with the backing of one of the biggest entertainment machines in the world.
As a Disney collaborator, Kaepernick will be working closely with the company to develop and produce a variety of content across its many different channels. The projects will explore social injustice, race, and equity, topics obviously close to the civil rights activist's heart in light of the events that have shaped his community efforts in the last few years. One such project includes a documentary that follows Kaepernick's path as an activist, starting with the very protest that pushed him into the spotlight four years ago.
Jemele Hill has also signed on to work with Disney as part of the first look deal. The sports journalist famously starred on ESPN's SportsCenter for years before dismissed for publicly calling President Donald Trump a white supremacist, but she will now return to the network as a producer for a docuseries with Kaepernick and his production company Ra Vision Media. The project will be developed under Undefeated, a unique ESPN vertical that focuses specifically on the relationship between race, culture, and sports.
"I have always known Colin is on the right side of history and this is an opportunity to make sure history continues to always reflects that," Hill shared on Twitter after ESPN announced the major deal.
"Colin’s vision for this collaboration isn’t just about content, but empowerment," she continued. "He was adamant that his work be surrounded by black and brown voices. It also was important for me to use my influence to elevate these voices, particularly inside of ESPN. I am truly grateful."
Despite being plagued by race-related controversy for ages, the sports world has struggled with having open dialogue about its role in social justice. But Kaepernick's deal and the projects that it manifests may mark a new dawn for the industry, proving that everything is inherently political — on or off the field.