Colin Kaepernick is a polarizing figure to some; but to others, he’s a hero. The former NFL quarterback, who took the San Francisco 49’ers to Super Bowl XLVII in 2013 in a losing effort, has become a respected leader off of the gridiron. After his controversial National Anthem protests where he took a knee during The Star-Spangled Banner to bring attention to police brutality, Kaepernick founded a social justice organization, Know Your Rights.
Since its inception in 2016, Know Your Rights has educated and advocated for equality in the areas of social justice. Kaepernick’s organization works to inform people of their 10 basic human rights such as safety, health, freedom and education. Know Your Rights is funded completely by Kaepernick and is void of external investors. In addition to the work inside of the organization, the sportsman also donated a million dollars to grassroots organizations that create change in communities across the country.
“It’s something that from top to bottom we’ve done on our own,” Kaepernick told “The Undefeated” in 2016. “There’s no corporation that’s behind this. This is us. On the groundwork, grassroots level, putting this together to try to really make an impact and not have our message skewed or manipulated by a corporate influence.”
With the assistance of famous friends like Alicia Keys, J. Cole, actress Zendaya, Kobe Bryant, Serena Williams and Steph Curry, Kaepernick was able to raise over $400,000 more than he’d originally pledged to give away. That money went to 37 organizations nationwide like 100 Suits, Justice League NYC, Coalition for the Homeless, Life After Hate and Leaders of A Beautiful Struggle.
Kaepernick’s service to the community didn’t stop there. He facilitated a Know Your Rights camp that traveled to 7 cities and abroad to Amsterdam to educate young people about how to handle interactions with police as well as providing mental health, wellness, academic and community resources. He also compiled an online resource guide for each city in conjunction with local leaders. Each attendee left the camp with a backpack containing “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” and an Ancestry DNA kit. Kaepernick felt it important for the budding activists to not only know their rights, but their heritage as well.
“The DNA kit is a powerful reminder to the youth that the beginning of their history predates the United States and is not shackled to the institution of slavery,” said Kaepernick. “The beginning of their history is based in freely thriving African civilizations.”
Despite the backlash he has experienced while fighting for justice and his continued exile from the NFL, Kaepernick remains hard at work in various cities, sometimes anonymously. Just last year, he popped up at a tent city for displaced individuals in Oakland bearing gifts. He brought a food truck and backpacks with snacks and toiletries inside.
Years before, he walked the Bay Area streets as a celebrated athlete, with all the perks and pampering that come with it. Now, he’s just content with being of service. It’s what “Know Your Rights,” and Kaepernick, are all about.