For his new GQ cover feature, Colin Kaepernick is putting the power of silence on full display. Instead of presenting a traditional interview, Kaepernick—after extensive talks with the magazine’s staff—decided to tell his story through a series of photographs shot in Harlem “to connect him to a crusade that stretches back decades.” Fuck yeah. Kaepernick also assembled a crew of his “closest confidants,” including J. Cole and Ava DuVernay, to share their thoughts on the power of his protest.
Cole revealed that he and Kaepernick first met years ago. “I met him during his breakout season,” Cole said. “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.” Kaepernick’s answers when pressed about the protest in interviews, Cole added, were “clear and potent,” proving Kaepernick had “the biggest balls” in sports.
“And look what happens to him,” Cole said. “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.”
DuVernay compared Kaepernick’s protest to art, noting that the true definition of art in any form is seeing “the world that doesn’t exist” through imagination. “Civil rights activists are artists,” DuVernay said. “Athletes are artists. People who imagine something that is not there. I think some folks see his protests, his resistance, as not his work. Not intentional. Not strategic. Not as progressive action. As if this was just a moment that he got caught up in. This was work. This is work that he’s doing.”
DuVernay added that she’s “honored” to know Kaepernick and recalled a dinner she had with him following Trump’s comments at an Alabama rally. “It was a really dynamic weekend,” she said. “I had dinner with him and Nessa [Kaepernick’s partner]. To be able to sit with that brother on this particular day—on the day between two historic cultural moments that swirled around him—was shape-shifting for me.”
Catch the rest of GQ‘s Kaepernick’s feature, including additional comments from Harry Belafonte and Tamika Mallory, right here.