Few people have supported Kaepernick and his plight like the legendary filmmaker.
Colin Kaepernick is the most influential athlete of the last six years, and his story is finally getting its just due. Kaepernick will have his life story told in an ESPN docuseries with Spike Lee as director, a pairing that is too perfect to pass up.
The unnamed project will cover Kaepernick’s full story: from growing up with white adoptive parents, to his time as a superstar quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers, to his ongoing fight with the NFL for blackballing him over his silent protests during the national anthem. The docuseries will have Kaepernick telling his story from a first-person account, with newly filmed interviews and previously unseen archival footage.
Few celebrities have supported Kaepernick over the last five years as publicly and consistently as Lee. Days after the first time Kaepernick explained why he was sitting silently during the national anthem to protest police brutality, Lee voiced his support for Kaepernick’s decision on CNN. In the interview, Lee may have made the first televised comparison between Kaepernick’s actions and the historic protests from athletes such as Muhammad Ali’s refusal to fight in the Vietnam War and John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s Black Power fist salute at the 1968 Olympic Games. To Lee, Kaepernick is “in that tradition of Black athletes standing up and using their platform to say, ‘I’m not happy with the way people of color are being treated.’” And Lee didn’t stop there.
Six months after Kaepernick opted out of his final year with the San Francisco 49ers in March 2017, Lee got back on CNN and called out the NFL’s phony show of solidarity by allowing numerous teams to kneel during the national anthem while Kaep was still unemployed for doing the same. Lee has supported Kaepernick-inspired protests outside of the NFL’s NYC headquarters, lauded Kaepernick’s Emmy-nominated Nike advertisement “courageous,” and referred to the NFL as the “No Freedom League.” Spike Lee has defended Kaepernick from the beginning, and has decades of telling stories about Black joy, pain, and perseverance; he’s more than capable of giving his story the nuanced care it deserves.
The upcoming docuseries will be the second major attempt at telling the Kaepernick story, following Ava DuVernay’s 2021 Netflix series Colin In Black & White. Though the six-episode drama series was narrated by Kaepernick, it focused more on his teenage years than his NFL career and protests. Lee’s docuseries will give us a true first look into the life and mind of a man who forever changed the way the world looks at America’s most popular sport.
Lee and ESPN Films also have a storied history together of humanizing divisive sports figures. In 2009, Lee directed lauded Kobe Bryant documentary Kobe Doin’ Work, allowing the notoriously private Bryant to break down a game, play-by-play, moments after leaving the court. Lee was able to turn a relatively inconsequential Spurs-Lakers game into a forum to explore the mind of a player who made playing basketball look like an art.
If Lee is able to replicate the insightfulness of Bryant baring his thoughts about a single game intro a series that has Kaepernick divulging his life story, we may be in store for the Kaepernick doc we’ve always deserved.