Colin Kaepernick hasn’t appeared in an NFL game in more than a year, but his name, image and message remain prominent as the nation continues to be roiled by a cultural tug of war.
In a video posted on Twitter Wednesday, the former 49ers quarterback said he’d donate $10,000 per day for the next 10 days and that he was looking to “some of my friends” for suggestions. The first $10,000, he said, would go to a group of Warriors forward Kevin Durant’s choosing called Silicon Valley De-Bug, which advocates criminal justice reform and police accountability.
Kaepernick said Durant would add another $10,000 to the cause. Durant’s Warriors teammate, Stephen Curry, will pick his own group. “I think it’s a small gesture we all can do,” Curry told the Bay Area News Group.
Kaepernick’s next donations will be the final installments for the $1 million pledge he made on Sept. 1, 2016. His national anthem protest had come to light a week earlier, and the 49ers’ final preseason game in front of a pro-military crowd in San Diego was the first time he had refused to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” while the country looked on.
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Kaepernick said he was protesting racial inequality, especially issues involving police and minority communities. His donations, he said, would go toward empowering disadvantaged groups.
“I’ve been very blessed to be in this position and to be able to make the kind of money I do,” Kaepernick said after the game against the Chargers. “And I have to help these people. I have to help these communities. It’s not right that they’re not put in a position to succeed or given those opportunities to succeed.”
Kaepernick’s Jan. 1, 2017 start against the Seattle Seahawks was his most recent game. He became a free agent in March, and while some quarterback-needy teams said they discussed adding him, he had no workouts and no job offers. Kaepernick has filed a grievance against the NFL, claiming owners colluded to keep him out of the league.
Despite losing his locker-room platform and the fact that he has declined nearly every interview request in more than a year, Kaepernick has continued to be a rallying point. Other NFL players, including 49ers Eric Reid and Marquise Goodwin, continued to kneel during the anthem this past season with Reid and others, such as Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett, invoking Kaepernick’s name during the season.
Kaepernick appeared on the cover of TIME magazine after his protests began in 2016. His image was on the most recent cover of The New Yorker this month; San Francisco-based artist Mark Ulriksen’s drawing depicts him and Bennett flanking Martin Luther King Jr. as the trio kneels.
Kaepernick’s kneeling stance – kneeling actually was Reid’s and former U.S. Army Green Beret Nate Boyer’s idea – immediately caught fire, with some athletes, many in high school or younger, adopting his stance and others outraged that he would disrespect a national symbol. Shortly after he was elected president, Donald Trump suggested Kaepernick find a better country if he’s unhappy with this one. Trump routinely has cited Kaepernick and other protesting athletes as a way to rally his base of supporters.
In turn, Kaepernick’s donations often have gone to groups fighting the president’s policies. In June, for example, he gave $25,000 to a group called United We Dream, which benefits young immigrants and is trying to uphold the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. Trump wants to phase out the Obama-era program, and the fate of DACA recipients is at the root of the discord in Congress that threatens to shut down the federal government later this week.
Kaepernick’s donations, which mostly have been in $25,000 installments, have been spread across the country, from the Bay Area to Austin, Texas to New Orleans and Baltimore. The bulk have gone to groups operating in big cities. Ten of Kaepernick’s beneficiaries are in New York where Kaepernick lives with his longtime girlfriend, Nessa Diab, a radio host on New York City’s Hot 97.
The next most have gone to groups in San Jose, which is close to the 49ers stadium and practice facility and where Kaepernick used to have have his home.