Kaeper­nick lets peo­ple know him as more than a quar­ter­back

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

In re­cent months, Colin Kaeper­nick has be­come com­fort­able with peo­ple get­ting to know him as more than a laser-fo­cused foot­ball player the way he had al­ways pre­ferred it.

He sparked a na­tion­wide de­bate with his an­them protest and emerged as an out­spo­ken ac­tivist for mi­nori­ties, and Kaeper­nick has seem­ingly im­proved his im­age in the process. This might even be where he leaves his legacy, off the field and not as a strong-armed quar­ter­back and dual threat with his speedy legs - though Kaeper­nick cer­tainly hopes to re­turn to the dy­namic play­maker he once was. And soon.

“Yeah, I think peo­ple know a lit­tle bit more about me,” Kaeper­nick said Tues­day. “I’ve been a lit­tle bit more open with where I stand and my views. For me, there’s noth­ing to hide, there’s noth­ing that I’m afraid to say about my opin­ion and my stance and what I be­lieve in, be­cause I know why I be­lieve those things and I have knowl­edge to back that up.”

He just took his mes­sage a step fur­ther to reach un­der­priv­i­leged youth. Kaeper­nick hosted a “Know Your Rights” camp in Oak­land for more than 100 kids Satur­day, when his San Fran­cisco 49ers (1-6) were on their bye week. They came from or­ga­ni­za­tions through­out the Bay Area. “It’s ex­cit­ing to see the youth that have that strength, have that courage, have that in­tel­li­gence to say, ‘Our sit­u­a­tion might not be the best, might not be ideal but we can suc­ceed through it re­gard­less,’” he said. “... There were a lot of dif­fer­ent top­ics that we cov­ered, a lot of dif­fer­ent ar­eas that we wanted to share with them. Ul­ti­mately, they have the right to be great. They have the right for their free­dom. They have the right to be treated as hu­man be­ings.” Kaeper­nick was benched last Novem­ber by for­mer coach Jim Tom­sula in fa­vor of Blaine Gab­bert. The 2011 se­cond-round pick, less her­alded than other QBs in his draft class, went on sea­son -end­ing in­jured re­serve and needed a trio of surg­eries: his non-throw­ing left shoul­der, left knee and right thumb. He hardly dis­ap­peared as a backup, in­stead tak­ing his old job back last month.

And he made in­ter­na­tional head­lines when he stopped stand­ing for the na­tional an­them in what he said was a protest against racial op­pres­sion. First he sat, then he kneeled. Oth­ers joined him. As his team strug­gles, the 28-year-old Kaeper­nick ap­pears as col­lected as any los­ing quar­ter­back in the league. This is the same guy who led San Fran­cisco to a run­ner-up Su­per Bowl fin­ish fol­low­ing the 2012 sea­son. “He’s def­i­nitely been tested, go­ing through his surg­eries, los­ing the start­ing job, bat­tling through re­hab,” 49ers safety An­toine Bethea said. “All the things he’s been do­ing, I think he’s re­ally grown. From the out­side look­ing in, not get­ting too per­sonal, I think he’s come to a place where he’s very com­fort­able within him­self. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.” From the NBA and WNBA to high school sports, col­lege foot­ball and the US women’s na­tional soccer team to col­lege bas­ket­ball, Kaeper­nick’s stance has be­come a ma­jor talk­ing point. Coaches are speak­ing about it to their play­ers, bosses or ath­letic di­rec­tors. The Golden State War­riors are try­ing to im­prove com­mu­ni­ca­tion with civic lead­ers in di­verse down­town Oak­land.

Kaeper­nick’s rep­u­ta­tion within his team might be bet­ter than ever, too. “It’s not an im­age thing. What does the typ­i­cal quar­ter­back look like? That’s the main ques­tion,” wide re­ceiver Quin­ton Pat­ton said. “Peo­ple try to put him in this quar­ter­back cat­e­gory or that quar­ter­back cat­e­gory, but what is a typ­i­cal quar­ter­back cat­e­gory? Why judge a per­son or look at him a dif­fer­ent kind of way just be­cause he’s dif­fer­ent. God made ev­ery­body dif­fer­ent, right? So ev­ery­body can’t be the same.” Kaeper­nick, his girl­friend and some oth­ers de­vel­oped the cur­ricu­lum for the camp, which dealt with ev­ery­thing from cul­tural and so­cial chal­lenges to col­lege op­tions and prepa­ra­tion. “It’s an event we wanted to put on to help give them the op­por­tu­nity to suc­ceed, give them some re­sources, some knowl­edge that can help progress them, help them un­der­stand the cur­rent state of things as well as how to han­dle dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions and how to suc­ceed in dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions,” Kaeper­nick said. “We wanted to make sure it was some­thing that was very grass­roots, that was true to what we be­lieved and the mes­sage wasn’t skewed or mis­rep­re­sented or ma­nip­u­lated by a cor­po­ra­tion that we had to stand be­hind.” — AP

SANTA CLARA: File photo, from left, San Fran­cisco 49ers out­side line­backer Eli Harold, quar­ter­back Colin Kaeper­nick and safety Eric Reid kneel dur­ing the na­tional an­them be­fore an NFL foot­ball game against the Dal­las Cow­boys in Santa Clara, Calif. In re­cent months, Colin Kaeper­nick­has be­come com­fort­able with peo­ple know­ing him as more than a laser-fo­cused foot­ball player as he al­ways pre­vi­ously pre­ferred it. —AP

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