Trump called him a ‘son of a bitch’ for taking the knee, but he stood firm – at huge cost. Now, in Ava DuVernay’s illuminating new show about his life, the football star likens NFL recruitment to a 19th-century slave market

‘Let me tell you something,” says Colin Kaepernick in his new Netflix show Colin in Black and White. Dressed all in black, his afro resplendent, leaning against a wall casually tossing a baseball, he’s like the coolest history lecturer ever. “There’s an old saying in baseball,” he continues. “Play the game the right way. It’s something coaches tell players from tee-ball to the big leagues.” He recounts the tale of Romare Bearden, who was on the verge of becoming the first Black player in the Major League in the 1930s, 15 years before Jackie Robinson. There was one problem: Bearden’s contract demanded the light-skinned pitcher pass as a white athlete. Bearden refused. What “playing the right way” really means, says Kaepernick, is “playing ball the white way.”

Nobody is more qualified to weigh in on these matters than Kaepernick. His decision to kneel during the national anthem in 2016, in protest against racial inequality and police brutality, was also not considered “the right way”. Kaepernick was widely condemned, not least by the then-president Donald Trump. Trump’s advice to NFL managers whose players took the knee was, “get that son of a bitch off the field right now. He’s fired.” In effect, Kaepernick was fired. Many more have since kneeled in solidarity with Kaepernick but, as with Bearden, his defiance looks to have cost him his career. He has not played a professional game since the end of the 2016 season.

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