In his new coming-of-age Netflix series, “Colin in Black & White,” former NFL quarterback and civil rights activist Colin Kaepernick is deeply involved in controversy, this time by equating the design process of professional football with modern day slavery.
As the first episode begins, you see a flurry of soccer players, played by black actors, running across a field in front of white coaches.
“What they don’t want you to understand is that a power dynamic is being created,” says Kaepernick, dressed all in black.
“Before they put you on the field, teams poke, prod and examine you looking for a defect that could affect your performance,” he continues. “No border respect. No dignity left intact.”
The scene transitions to an open market in America’s slavery era, where the players, shirtless and shackled, are then sold before one of the slave owners shakes hands with a football coach – merging past and present.
The juxtaposition quickly caught the attention of viewers after Netflix made the limited series available for streaming on Friday, and Kaepernick asked on Twitter, “What are your favorite scenes and messages from the show?”
Some on Twitter praise the scene for being “in your face and completely accurate.”
But others called it an unfair comparison.
“Slaves had NO choice, while all these men OF ALL RACES AND CULTURAL BACKGROUNDS chose to go to the combine for a chance to turn pro and make millions,” a Twitter user wrote.
Rep. Burgess Owens, Utah, who played in the NFL in the 1970s and 1980s, expressed his own disdain for the scene.
“How dare @Kaepernick7 compare the evil so many of our ancestors endured to a bunch of millionaires COST to play the game,” tweeted Owens, who is black.
In recent years, the NFL has come under criticism for having a majority of players who identify as Black, but few Black head coaches and general managers.
Kaepernick was a second round draft pick in 2011 and helped lead the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013, establishing himself as one of the league’s most dynamic quarterbacks.
His career was turned upside down in 2016 when he knelt during a preseason game to quietly protest racial injustice and police brutality in the United States. His decision sparked a spate of similar demonstrations by other players and by athletes in other sports, and sparked a wider discussion of racial inequality in American society.
Kaepernick, who accused the NFL of blackmailing him and settling a “collusion complaint” with the league in 2019, has since turned his attention to civil rights, documentaries and television projects.
“Colin in Black & White”, directed by Ava DuVernay, tells the story of Kaepernick’s high school days in Northern California as the biracial adoptee of two white parents. The six-episode series splits scripted scenes with actors—Nick Offerman and Mary-Louise Parker play his parents—with Kaepernick’s personal narration to unravel topics about embracing one’s identity, friendships and dating, and the journey of a young athlete destined for the profs.
DuVernay, an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker for the documentary “13th,” told Variety that the series should make audiences think outside of Kaepernick.
“I hope people don’t go away thinking it’s just a show about Colin,” she said. “I hope they see this as a show that can help them question their own lives.”