Colin Kaepernick was once a Super Bowl starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. Now he’s out of the league. It’s not for lack of talent. Kaepernick had all the attributes NFL franchises look for in a QB. Those qualities were ignored when he took an action the NFL despises, the one unwritten rule—he became political.
In 2016, before the 49ers fourth preseason game, Kaepernick unleashed a maelstrom when, in protest of police violence against Black people, he kneeled during the national anthem. Berated as un-American by many, as a “thug” by Donald Trump, he hasn’t played a snap of NFL football since that season. In that time however, he became a symbol for the Black Lives Matter movement, and a passionate activist decrying police brutality. Now he’s teaming up with director Ava DuVernay for a six-episode Netflix-Array series entitled “Colin in Black and White,” to recount his life.
Co-written and co-executive produced by Michael Starrbury, Kaepernick serves as host and moderator. He can be stiff: in the DuVernay directed premiere his voice overbears the importance of the subject matter. Still, he looks the part, a suave range of black overcoats and his robust afro form a great profile. He discovers great ease as a narrator, providing heartfelt recollections of how his emotional response to certain events, such as his parents’ want for him to cut his hair rather than keep his Allen Iverson-inspired cornrows. Some of the series’ best moments have the action on screen freezing, only for the camera to pan to Kaepernick watching the action unfold from a minimalist set, reacting to their import.
The show aims to have several directors helm the varying episodes: the second, for example, was led by Sheldon Candis, and the third by Robert Townsend (“Hollywood Shuffle”). The topics covered include: the origins of the word “thug,” microaggressions, and white privilege. Mary-Louise Parker and Nick Offerman are a winning pair as the QB’s racially illiterate parents. And Jaden Michael as the young Kaepernick gives a detailed performance, offering slight variations in his delivery to impart his calm, sorrow, and belongingness. “Colin in Black and White” is subversive and provocative, bearing passing similarities to DuVernay’s “The 13th”—it’s brisk, witty, and sweet, and offers a thoughtfully constructed critique of America’s racial history and present.