Wolf Pack alum and UNR graduate Colin Kaepernick was named the second-most influential African American in 2020.
According to The Root, which publishes an annual top-100 list of the most influential Black people aged 25 to 45, the list is meant to honor innovators, leaders, public figures and game changers who break down barriers for the next generation.
The Root 100’s list was topped by New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, the creator of The 1619 Project, “which recontextualized the Black American story starting with the arrival of the first enslaved Africans.” She won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary and her project has been used to as curriculum in more than 4,500 classrooms in the United States.
Kaepernick, who played for Nevada from 2006-10 and graduated from UNR with a business management while boasting a 4.0 GPA, was listed as an activist. He rose to fame as a football player who led Nevada to the No. 11 ranking in the nation in 2010 before starring for the San Francisco 49ers, which he led to back-to-back NFC championship games, including an appearance in the 2012 season Super Bowl, a 34-31 loss to Baltimore.
Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since 2016 when he knelt during the national anthem prior to games to protest police brutality and unequal civil rights for minorities.
“Kaepernick was right—about voicing his outrage, disrupting America’s comfortable racism and kneeling in order to stand up for Black Americans—and he’s got a pipeline of expansive projects to keep pushing his agenda,” The Root 100 wrote.
Kaepernick’s cause engulfed America after George Floyd was murdered by cops in Minnesota in May. Social justice causes flooded the sports landscape with the NFL admitting it was wrong in not supporting Kaepernick’s cause four years ago. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stumped for Kaepernick’s return to the NFL, although he has yet to draw even a workout from an NFL team despite ranking 16th in quarterback rating in his last season in the league while accounting for 18 touchdowns against four interceptions with a substandard supporting cast.
“Pro sports didn’t just develop a conscience out of the ether this year,” The Root 100 wrote. “Kap woke them up. Since he first refused to stand for the national anthem in 2016, Colin Kaepernick has prevented America from allowing football to be the country’s favorite escapism from racial injustice, even at the expense of his on-field career. After the death of George Floyd, nearly every major sports league—including the WNBA, the NBA, the National Women’s Soccer League, the Premier League, Major League Baseball and, yes, even the NFL—has seen its athletes protest or take a knee during the national anthem in support of racial justice.”
Kaepernick’s non-profit, Know Your Rights Camp, committed $1 million to fund the release of incarcerated minorities who were vulnerable to COVID-19 and unable to afford bail. That gift was matched by Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, which awarded Kaepernick with Human Rights Ripple of Hope award laureate honor. Kaepernick’s production company, Ra Vision Media, also locked into a deal with Disney and created a partnership with Kaepernick Publishing, Audible and Medium to give storytelling platforms to Black and brown writers, directors and producers.
While The Root 100’s list is rife with athletes, Kaepernick is the top athlete on the list. NBA star LeBron James, who ranked 48th on the list, said upon kneeling prior to an NBA game: “I hope we made Kap proud I hope we continue to make Kap proud every single day. I hope I make him proud with how I live my life, not only out on the basketball floor but off the floor. I’ve been one to always speak out about things that I feel are unjust. If I’m educated on things, I always go about it that way. So Kap was someone who stood up when times wasn’t comfortable, when people didn’t understand or refused to listen to what he was saying.”
You can see the full The Root 100 list here.