In 2018, his photo dominated Union Square, San Francisco’s palm-tree-lined plaza. A close-up of his face on the roof of the Nike building. In black and white, as if to illustrate the identity dilemma of Colin Kaepernick, born to a white mother and a black father, abandoned at birth, then adopted by a family in Minnesota.

The professional footballer, star of the San Francisco 49ers, was at the forefront of the news that year. His career was ruined. He had taken positions that were too political for the tastes of the bosses of the National Football League (NFL), and of Donald Trump, who had advised the clubs to “fire” him.

The “patriots” accused him of “treason,” burned his red jersey, and posted their exploit on Twitter. For young people, he had become an icon of the anti-racist cause. “Believe in something,” the footballer invited on the Nike poster. Even if it means sacrificing everything. »

Six years have passed. The portrait was long taken down from Union Square. The cause defended by the 1.93 meter quarterback with exceptionally fast legs has taken a back seat. The debate is today dominated by the agenda of conservatives obsessed with hunting wokism in education, business or sport. Four years after the surge of the Black Lives Matter movement, the country is in the grip of a major backlash against the right to be different claimed by minorities. One battle chases the other. Americans are now torn apart over abortion.

“We are targets.”

The documentary An American Hero, directed by Annebeth Jacobsen, has the merit of giving an idea of ​​how far we have come. The film brings back images of police violence targeting black people, which have disappeared from collective memory. The unbearable suffocation of Eric Garner, an asthmatic father of six, on Staten Island (New York) in July 2014; the body of Michael Brown left on the road in Ferguson (Missouri), a few weeks later… After the death of Alton Sterling, on July 5, 2016 in Baton Rouge (Louisiana), then that of Philando Castile, the next day in Minnesota , Kaepernick is outraged: “We are targets,” he wrote on Twitter.

The player launches a movement that will spread through the stadiums and even into the corridors of Congress. A simple gesture: kneeling on the ground. He kneels during the national anthem played at the start of the match, instead of listening to it standing with his hand on his heart. “To raise awareness of injustices,” he explains. After 2017, he will never again be recruited to a football team. The NFL, which he accuses of illegal agreement to exclude him, will prefer to negotiate a financial settlement.

At 36, Colin Kaepernick is now a full-time social justice activist. He founded a publishing house with his partner, radio and TV host Nessa Diab, and an association, Know Your Rights Camp, to teach young people from minorities to find their place and defend their rights.

With Netflix, he created Colin in Black