Kaepernick & America: Tribeca Film Festival Review

Year: 2022

Runtime: 81 minutes

Directors: Ross Hockrow, Tommy Walker

By Joan Amenn

Unless you have possibly developed selective amnesia as a way to cope with the events of the last decade, (which would be totally understandable), you will remember that in 2016 NFL star Colin Kaepernick knelt during the playing of the National Anthem as a protest against police brutality and racism. “Kaepernick & America” (2022) gives an overview of the timeline of events that led up to this protest and afterwards. It is a brutal, triggering watch at times, evoking so much of the loss and grief that has transpired across the country. However, it is surprisingly muted when it comes to the man himself.

It is a brutal, triggering watch at times, evoking so much of the loss and grief that has transpired across the country. However, it is surprisingly muted when it comes to the man himself.

Anyone who is a sports fan will be familiar with Kaepernick’s background as an adopted biracial child raised by a white family. This is important context to his later growing awareness of the injustices of racism in America. Then he took action in peaceful protest that changed his life, and how he was perceived as much more than just a sports figure, forever.

While it is on one hand admirable that the man has let his actions speak louder than words in not giving many interviews since 2016, it is also a little frustrating in relation to this documentary. Viewers see Don Lemon, President Barack Obama and others commenting on Kaepernick but we don’t hear much of his own firsthand account of what lead up to his decision to protest and its impact on him personally. This give the film an almost unfinished quality, as if the directors rushed to complete a project they knew was missing most of its key subject matter.

2BWGYBH Santa Clara, USA. 02nd Oct, 2016. Eli Harold (58), Colin Kaepernick (7) and Eric Reid (35) of the San Franciso 49ers kneel during the national anthem before a game against the Dallas Cowbowy on October 2, 2016, at Levi’s Stadium, in Santa Clara, CA Credit: Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group/TNS/Alamy Live News

Maybe it is too soon to truly measure the depth of how much Kaepernick inspired the Black Lives Matter movement but for the man, it is possibly the beginning of a new chapter. Recently, the Las Vegas Raiders have expressed interest in signing him to play, which would be a staggering comeback for an athlete who has not taken the field since 2017. The documentary makes it clear that various owners and financial backers of the NFL have done much to prevent this from ever happening so while we wait in hope that he returns to wearing a uniform once again, let us celebrate the integrity and courage of Colin Kaepernick.

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