ESPN Inks Production Deal With Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick may not get another chance to play in the NFL, but the former Super Bowl quarterback turned activist has no shortage of media opportunities.

Disney-owned ESPN Films July 6 announced it has entered into a production deal with the 32-year-old former University of Nevada standout, who hasn’t played football since 2017, for a multi-episodic series similar to “The Last Dance” docuseries about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. The series will focus on Kaepernick’s stardom with the San Francisco 49ers and his speaking out on racial issues.

“Using extensive new interviews and a vast never-before-seen archive that documents the last five years, Kaepernick will tell his story from his perspective,” Disney said in a statement.

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Kaepernick, who came within one pass of winning the 2012 Super Bowl, began his silent protest against alleged racial injustice, police brutality and systematic oppression in the country during the playing of the national anthem in the 49ers’ third preseason game in 2016. The following week, and throughout the regular season, Kaepernick kneeled during the anthem. The protests generated highly-polarized reactions, with some praising him and others denouncing the protests.

Bob Iger, executive chairman of Disney, said Kaepernick’s experience gives him a unique perspective on the intersection of sports, culture and race in today’s society.

“This will undoubtedly create compelling stories that will educate, enlighten and entertain, and we look forward to working with him on this important collaboration,” Iger said.

Last month, Netflix announced that Academy Award nominee and Emmy Award winner Ava DuVernay would create a series about Kaepernick’s life.

Ava DuVernay to Produce Scripted Series on Colin Kaepernick for Netflix

The adolescent life of athlete and activist Colin Kaepernick will hit Netflix in Colin in Black & White, a scripted limited series from Kaepernick and Academy Award nominee and Emmy Award winner Ava DuVernay.

The series will focus on Kaepernick’s formative high school years, lending meaningful insight into the acts and experiences that led him to become an activist. Emmy Award nominee Michael Starrbury writes and serves as executive producer, alongside DuVernay and Kaepernick who will appear as himself as narrator of the series.

The six-episode series, which was conceived in 2019 and recently completed writing in May, provides an introspective look at Kaepernick’s early life as a black child growing up with a white adopted family and his journey to become a great quarterback while defining his identity. The limited series reunites Starrbury and DuVernay who last worked together on Netflix’s acclaimed When They See Us, which received 16 Emmy Award nominations, including a nomination for Outstanding Writing for the duo and was recently honored with a Peabody Award.

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“With his act of protest, Colin Kaepernick ignited a national conversation about race and justice with far-reaching consequences for football, culture and for him, personally,” said DuVernay in a statement. “Colin’s story has much to say about identity, sports and the enduring spirit of protest and resilience. I couldn’t be happier than to tell this story with the team at Netflix.”

“Too often we see race and Black stories portrayed through a white lens,” said Kaepernick in a statement. “We seek to give new perspective to the differing realities that Black people face. We explore the racial conflicts I faced as an adopted Black man in a white community, during my high school years. It’s an honor to bring these stories to life in collaboration with Ava for the world to see.”

“We’re proud to bring Colin’s experience and his creative vision to life as he joins Ava to share his powerful story and message with all our members around the world,” said Cindy Holland, VP, original content for Netflix. “It is an unparalleled union of two strong and defining voices coming together to tell the story about what it’s like to be Black in America.”

NFL Says It Now Supports Peaceful Social Justice Protest

In a surprise move, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell late June 5 said the league now fully supports players voicing their concerns about social injustice and police brutality — a stance the NFL decidedly avoided in recent years, especially during the early days of the Trump Administration.

In a video posted on social media, Goodell, without naming any players (i.e. former San Francisco 49er QB Colin Kaepernick, who in 2016 kneeled during the national anthem), said the NFL was wrong for ignoring previous protests about social injustice.

“We, the National Football League condemn racism and systematic oppression of black people,” Goodell said on the video. “We, the National Football League admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier, and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League believe black lives matter.”

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The admission comes 12 days after an unarmed black man (George Floyd) was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer on Memorial Day. With the killing spurring violent protests across the country, and the fact African-American players comprise 70% of its on-field talent, the NFL, like many industries, has taken proactive steps to project an air of social and racial awareness.

That stance took a hit this week when rookie Buffalo Bills QB and former University of Georgia standout Jake Fromm was forced to apologize for racist comments he made in personal messaging that was leaked online.

Then veteran New Orleans QB Drew Brees, a fixture in NFL marketing, told a Yahoo Finance interview that he did not support anyone disrespecting the American flag. Kaepernick’s protests had been usurped by conservatives and President Trump, who claimed by kneeling the QB was dissing the flag, military, veterans and country.

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“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” Brees told Yahoo.

Brees quickly apologized twice for his comments, saying he couldn’t imagine the hurt and anguish he had caused black teammates, fans and the city of New Orleans.

“[My comments] lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy,” Brees wrote on Instagram. “Instead, those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character.”

Trump June 5 weighed in on the matter angrily tweeting that Brees should not have to apologize for his position on the flag.

“I am a big fan of Drew Brees. I think he’s truly one of the greatest quarterbacks, but he should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag,” Trump tweeted. “OLD GLORY is to be revered, cherished, and flown high. We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart. There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag — NO KNEELING!”

Brees responded, saying he vowed to be an “ally” for black people and social justice.

“Through my ongoing conversations with friends, teammates, and leaders in the black community, I realize this is not an issue about the American flag. It has never been,” Brees wrote. “We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities.

“We did this back in 2017, and regretfully I brought it back with my comments this week. We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial & prison reform. We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history! If not now, then when?

“We as a white community need to listen and learn from the pain and suffering of our black communities. We must acknowledge the problems, identify the solutions, and then put this into action. The black community cannot do it alone. This will require all of us.”

The NFL has pledged $20 million in financial support to organizations fighting for social justice and racial equality.

XFL 2020 Season to Stream Abroad on ESPN Player

The Xtreme Football League (XFL), established in 2001 for one season only by WWE founder Vince McMahon, is slated to return with a 10-game regular season Feb. 8, 2020, on ABC and Fox.

Disney-owned ESPN announced it would stream the entire XFL season on its ESPN Player, the standalone service only available outside the United States.

The eight-team league is divided into two four-team divisions (East and West). The XFL East features the DC Defenders, New York Guardians, St. Louis Battle Hawks and Tampa Bay Vipers. The Dallas Renegades, Houston Roughnecks, Los Angeles Wildcats and Seattle Dragons comprise the XFL West.

While the league will likely field NFL rejects and wannabes, former marquee players such as ex-Super Bowl QB Colin Kaepernick have reportedly met with the league.

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McMahon has made it clear players in the XFL would not be permitted to kneel during the national anthem, the protest act that contributed to Kaepernick being blacklisted from the NFL.

Eric Reid and Colin Kaepernick kneeling during a San Francisco 49ers game.

“People don’t want social and political issues coming into play when they are trying to be entertained,” McMahon said in a press interview last year. “We want someone who wants to take a knee to do their version of that on their personal time.”

Both Kaepernick and fellow protester Eric Reid — who repeatedly kneeled during playing of the anthem as protest regarding alleged police brutality toward African American men — settled their grievances against the NFL last year.

Notably, ESPN Player is also streaming  “This Was the XFL,” ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentary on the upstart league’s promising but short existence 18 years ago. The doc looks at how the league impacted how professional team sports are broadcast today.