Colin Kaepernick partners with Disney/ESPN for projects on race and social injustice

Stephen Battaglio
·3 min read
San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick warms up before a game against Arizona on Oct. 6.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Walt Disney Co. is going into business with Colin Kaepernick, the NFL quarterback in exile who spearheaded the on-field protests of police brutality and racial inequality.

Burbank-based Disney announced Monday it has an overall first-look deal with Kaepernick's Los Angeles-based production company, Ra Vision Media. The company will create scripted and unscripted projects dealing with race and social injustice. It will also showcase the work of producers and directors who are people of color.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

The deal comes amid the racial reckoning sweeping the nation following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in Minneapolis police custody on May 25. The protests and discussions spurred by the incident have led media companies to reflect on racial representation and social injustice within their ranks and in the products they create.

“During this unprecedented time, the Walt Disney Company remains committed to creating diverse and inclusive content that resonates and matters," Disney Executive Chairman Bob Iger said in a statement announcing the deal. "Colin’s experience gives him a unique perspective on the intersection of sports, culture and race, which will undoubtedly create compelling stories that will educate, enlighten and entertain, and we look forward to working with him on this important collaboration.”

The deal gives Disney-owned production entities and platforms — including ESPN, Hulu, Pixar and the Undefeated — first crack at whatever Ra Vision Media develops.

The first project will be a documentary series on Kaepernick's life for ESPN. Kaepernick has tapped former ESPN host Jemele Hill to work on the project.

Hill was a popular host and analyst at ESPN alongside on-air partner Michael Smith. She left ESPN in October 2018 after being disciplined and then suspended by management over her social media criticism of President Trump, whom she described as a white supremacist, and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones after his announcement that players would be benched if they did not stand during the playing of the national anthem.

Kaepernick, 32, played six seasons in the NFL, leading the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012. At the start of the 2016 season, Kaepernick went to one knee during the playing of the national anthem as a social protest, sparking a major debate on whether it was disrespectful to the country, as well as public criticism from Trump.

He has not played since the end of that season and reached a settlement with the NFL last year after filing a complaint that owners colluded to keep him off the field.

Earlier this year, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released a video apologizing on behalf of the NFL for not listening to players’ concerns on racial inequality. He was criticized for not mentioning Kaepernick in the video.

Last month, Goodell encouraged teams to sign the quarterback, but so far he has not been picked up.

"I look forward to sharing the docuseries on my life story, in addition to many other culturally impactful projects we are developing,” Kaepernick said in a statement.