Previously calling for an NFL boycott, Cole penned an open letter to and about the exiled player on their time together and the moments that turned Cole into a believer and unwavering advocate for Kaepernick.
“Colin and I met years ago. I am—I was—a big 49ers fan. I met him during his breakout season. I actually went to the first game he really played in, against the Jets. I just happened to be at that game. It hit another level for me the second I learned he was taking a knee. And it wasn’t just that—it was when I saw the sh*t he was saying in the interviews when they pressed him about it. His answers were just so clear and potent. Like, right on point. And he wasn’t backing down. And he wasn’t afraid. He was just being honest. And it didn’t seem like he was looking for attention. It caught me off guard because, you know, nothing personally against him, I just didn’t know when I met him that the person with the biggest balls in sports would be him.
“You’re talking about a guy in his athletic prime, who’s lived his whole life dreaming about playing football at a level that millions of kids dream to get to. And in his first big season, he takes his team to within five yards of winning a Super Bowl. But then, at some point in time, he becomes conscious about what’s happening in the world. And suddenly something that he’s been doing blindly for his whole life—standing for the national anthem—now feels uncomfortable. Why? Because now it feels phony! It feels like, Man, how can I stand for this thing when this country is not holding itself true to the principles it says it stands for? I feel like we’re lying. And look what happens to him. Had he not done that, this guy would be making millions of dollars right now. Period, point blank. And more important than the money, he was living his dream. He sacrificed his dream.”
Filmmaker Ava DuVernay, Colin’s former teammate Eric Reid, his partner Nessa, legendary musician Harry Belafonte and other also shared their thoughts in individual letters as well. The entire piece can be seen at GQ’s site now.