While Colin Kaepernick’s future on the football field remains to be seen, the former NFL quarterback who has inspired thousands of athletes to take a knee for social justice is evolving into a growing media brand.
On July 6, the Walt Disney Co. announced a first-look production deal with Kaepernick and his production arm Ra Vision Media. That will include ESPN Films producing an exclusive docuseries on his life. The first-look deal extends across all Walt Disney platforms, including Walt Disney Television, ESPN, Hulu, Pixar, and The Undefeated.
The partnership will produce “scripted and unscripted stories that explore race, social injustice and the quest for equity” and will “showcase the work of Black and Brown directors and producers,” according to a release.
“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. “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 marks something of an about-face for ESPN on two fronts. It is a continued reversal of ESPN’s prior strategy to avoid mixing sports and politics, with ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro now leaning into politics during a U.S. presidential election year via the new deal with Kaepernick.
It also marks a comeback by Jemele Hill. ESPN canceled her 6 p.m. SportsCenter with Michael Smith, then bought out her contract in 2018. But Kapernick has enlisted Hill as a producer on the first project in development. Hill, a contributing writer for The Athletic, is also launching a new talk show for Vice TV this summer with former ESPN colleague Cari Champion.
The 32-year old former San Francisco 49ers QB will share his life story with Hill and ESPN’s Connor Schell, Libby Geist, and Kevin Merida. ESPN Films recently scored a critical and rating triumph with its Michael Jordan/Chicago Bulls documentary, “The Last Dance.” The unit previously won ESPN’s first Oscar for “O.J.: Made in America” in 2016.
Said Kaepernick in a statement: “I am excited to announce this historic partnership with Disney across all of its platforms to elevate Black and Brown directors, creators, storytellers, and producers, and to inspire the youth with compelling and authentic perspectives. I look forward to sharing the docuseries on my life story, in addition to many other culturally impactful projects we are developing.”
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Pitaro said he wants ESPN to tell stories through a “wide array” of voices.
“Colin has had a singular path as both an athlete and an activist, and, as the nation continues to confront racism and social injustice, it feels particularly relevant to hear Colin’s voice on his evolution and motivations,” Pitaro said in a statement.
With the NFL’s 32 teams still reluctant to sign him to a deal, Kaepernick has been expanding his media brand.
On June 29, Netflix announced he would be the subject of a six-part series called “Colin in Black and White.” Kaepernick will serve as the narrator and executive producer on the series. Previously, he joined Medium’s board of directors as the site’s sole minority board member.