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Who, as young Colin Kaepernick, faced down a line of police officers at a Black Lives Matter protest? Who, as a sportswriter in the sixth grade, responded to a homework assignment by posthumously removing the stadium field goal net from a field that he had set? And what year did the 49ers quarterback choose to tell Roger Goodell that he was, in effect, revoking his own “take a knee” by raising a fist?
Those are some of the questions posed in Colin Kaepernick’s new memoir, the long-awaited followup to his days in the NFL.
Kaepernick’s Chapter 9, published on Sunday by Riptide Publishing, details his years at Spring Valley high school in North Carolina and retells the story of his ninth-grade teacher’s examination of his work ethic and commitment to what he saw as social justice.
“At first, she didn’t get it,” writes Kaepernick, “because I didn’t wear shoes and socks to school.”
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Kaepernick had been spotted by others at school wearing socks depicting police officers as pigs in riot gear, his mother, who told her son he was a follower. His mother also points out that he told her he could not stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.
Kaepernick writes that the “blunt truth” is that “society requires black people to be submissive”. As a teen, he found little succour in the role models he found for him in Sports Illustrated, the movie Bull Durham and modern sports, where he claims most successful African Americans “were tokens, like UConn’s Natalie Coughlin”.
He found pride in being able to defy the rules of American society.
“Black is white,” he tells the Washington Post. “White is black, as long as we’re talking about sports, because sports have a black-white paradigm.”
The criticism has been largely centred on whether the former 49ers quarterback is using sports as an outlet to “pray on behalf of people of colour” – not unlike how “Lenny Bruce and Malcolm X would use popular culture as a platform for their political causes”.
Retired NBA centre JB Holmes, who was coached by Kaepernick in high school, dismissed those critiques: “He chose his path and he’s staying true to it.
“Even if he was a white boy from Arizona, he would have chosen that path. He’s doing it for a lot of reasons.”