San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has pledged to donate all of the proceeds he receives from his best-selling jersey to communities. Sales for Kaepernick's No. 7 jersey have skyrocketed following his protest of the U.S. national anthem.
On Aug. 27, Kaepernick became the focal point of the national discussion about police brutality when he announced that he would no longer stand during the national anthem before football games.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media. The quarterback added, “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Kaepernick’s protest sparked outrage among critics who found his snub of the national anthem to be both unpatriotic and disrespectful toward U.S. military service members.
On Sept. 2, after being loudly booed during a preseason football game, the 49ers quarterback asserted that his protest was not directed at service members.
“The media painted this as I’m anti-American, anti-men-and-women of the military and that’s not the case at all,” Kaepernick said, according to USA TODAY.
The quarterback pledged to donate the first $1 million of his annual $11.9 million salary to charitable organizations.
“I’ve been very blessed to be in this position and to be able to make the kind of money that I do and I have to help these people,” Kaepernick said. “I have to help these communities. It’s not right that they’re not put in the position to succeed or given those opportunities to success.”
The quarterback has since changed his protest from sitting during the national anthem to taking a knee.
A surprising result of the Kaepernick’s controversy is his surging popularity. While his jersey had previously ranked highly in NFL merchandising sales, it became the highest-selling in the league on Sept. 6, according to ESPN.
In addition, the 49ers have reportedly sold more gear featuring Kaepernick’s name in the past week than they had in the previous 8 months combined. While the quarterback’s protest has made him new enemies, it has also proved to be very lucrative in other ways.
On Sept. 7, Kaepernick took to Instagram to thank his fans for purchasing his jersey and to pledge all of the proceeds he receives to charitable causes.
“The only way I can repay you for the support is to return the favor by donating all the proceeds I receive from my jersey sales back into the communities!” Kaepernick wrote. “I believe in the people, and WE can be the change!”
While the quarterback did not specify which communities he would donate to, his past rhetoric -- and the imagery of his Instagram post -- suggests that he plans on giving back to black communities.
The same day, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell weighed in on the Kaepernick controversy during an interview with The Associated Press. The commissioner struck a balance between disagreeing with the quarterback’s form of protest while acknowledging his right to speak out.
“I support our players when they want to see change in society, and we don’t live in a perfect society,” Goodell said. “On the other hand, we believe very strongly in patriotism in the NFL. I personally believe very strongly in that.”