Colin Kaepernick won’t be playing in Super Bowl LV, but the quarterback-turned-activist found another way to draw attention ahead of the big game.
Ben & Jerry’s unveiled last week a billboard and a mural featuring the NFL free agent in Old West Tampa, Florida, not far from Raymond James Stadium, where Super Bowl LV will be played Sunday evening.
The signage represents a not-so-subtle jab at the NFL from Kaepernick, who has not played since he opted out of the final year of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers in March 2017 following a season in which he gained fame for kneeling during the national anthem.
Kaepernick’s social-justice protest didn’t sit well with some fans, nor did the quarterback’s decision to wear “pig police” socks at a practice and a Fidel Castro T-shirt at a press conference after a 2016 game in Miami, but Ben & Jerry’s praised Kaepernick’s activism.
“As we look back, it’s clear that Colin was on the right side of history,” says Chris Miller, the Ben & Jerry’s head of global activism in a Wednesday press release. “His pre-game protests were before George Floyd’s murder, before the 2020 summer of racial reckoning. He knew a long time ago that we need to address the root causes of racism and the structures of our society that are so brutal to Black people. We wanted to be part of the effort to honor Colin’s courage and legacy because we share the same values.”
The billboard features the Ben & Jerry’s flavor “Change the Whirled,” a non-dairy vegan frozen dessert unveiled Dec. 10 with Kaepernick on its container. Both signs show Kaepernick raising a fist and include references to his Know Your Rights Camp.
This isn’t the first time Kaepernick has sought to thump the NFL on its own turf. In 2018, Nike released a splashy ad campaign starring Kaepernick that kicked off with a television commercial that ran during the NFL season opener.
Kaepernick and former teammate Eric Reid filed a grievance accusing the owners of colluding to keep them out of the league. They settled in 2019 for reportedly less than $10 million. Reid signed in 2018 with the Carolina Panthers.
Kaepernick has since taken up the cause of “abolition,” which refers to “a future without policing & prisons.”
“I’m honored to partner with Ben & Jerry’s on Change the Whirled,” said Kaepernick in a Dec. 10 statement. “Their commitment to challenging the anti-Black roots of policing in the United States demonstrates a material concern for the wellbeing of Black and Brown communities. My hope is that this partnership will amplify calls to defund and abolish the police and to invest in futures that can make us safer, healthier, and truly free.”
• Valerie Richardson can be reached at email@example.com.
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