Former NFL quarterback-turned-civil rights activist Colin Kaepernick is stirring up controversy in his new Netflix coming-of-age series, “Colin in Black & White,” by connecting professional football’s draft process with modern-day slavery.
A flurry of football players, played by Black actors, are seen sprinting across a field in front of white coaches in the first episode.
“What they don’t want you to realize is that what’s being constructed is a power dynamic,” says Kaepernick, who is clad entirely in black.
“Teams poke, prod, and scrutinize you before putting you on the field, looking for any imperfection that could impair your performance,” he explains. “There is no respect for boundaries. There is no dignity left.”
The scene shifts to an open market during the American slavery era, when the players are sold shirtless and chains until one of the slaveowners shakes hands with a football coach, fusing the past with the present.
After Netflix made the limited series available for streaming on Friday, viewers were quick to notice the juxtaposition, prompting Kaepernick to ask on Twitter, “What have been your favorite scenes and messages from the show?”
On Twitter, others applauded the scene for being “direct and to the point.”
Owens, who is Black, wrote, “How dare @Kaepernick7 equate the evil faced by so many of our ancestors to a group of millionaires who CHOSE to play game.”
The NFL has been chastised in recent years for having a majority of Black players but few Black head coaches and general managers.
Kaepernick was drafted in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft and went on to assist the San Francisco 49ers to win the Super Bowl in 2013, establishing himself as one of the league’s most exciting quarterbacks.
When he knelt during a preseason game in 2016 to protest racial injustice and police violence in the United States, his career was turned upside down. His decision sparked a wave of similar protests from other players and athletes from other sports, as well as a larger conversation about racial inequity in American society.
After accusing the NFL of blackballing him and settling a “collusion claim” with the league in 2019, Kaepernick has shifted his focus to civil rights and documentary and television projects.
Ava DuVernay’s film “Colin in Black & White” chronicles Kaepernick’s high school years in Northern California as a mixed adoptee of two white parents. The six-episode series combines scripted scenes with actors — Nick Offerman and Mary-Louise Parker play Kaepernick’s parents — with Kaepernick’s personal narration to explore themes such as embracing one’s identity, friendships, and dating, as well as the journey of a young athlete destined for the pros.
According to DuVernay, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his documentary “13th,” the series is meant to make viewers think about issues other than Kaepernick.
“I hope people don’t walk away thinking it’s just a Colin show,” she remarked. “I hope they perceive this as a show that might help them reflect on their own life,” she says.