Dear Colin Kaepernick;
Not sure if you know this, but you’re the first quarterback who made me fall in love with football.
My ex boyfriend was a huge 49ers fan. He introduced me to the team when we first started dating and Alex Smith was the guy at center.
Don’t get me wrong, Smith was a great dude for the job. But when you took over and walked out onto that field donning my dad’s favourite number for a jersey, I instantly had heart eyes for every bit of who you are.
You took command of the team with ease, as if you had trained for that moment your entire existence; as if you were truly made to be QB1.
Never would I have guessed you were ever a second choice. Nah, you couldn’t be. Because in my life, you were always number one.
Now, most people reading this might be thinking, “This girl loves Jimmy G more than her dog! What the heck is she spittin’ right now?” And it’s true. I have a tattoo to honour James Garoppolo. I even dressed up as his cheeky nickname this past Halloween. Most folks know me for who I am right now, but there’s a bit of a history with me and the 49ers, and you, Kap, have always been the headline of my journey.
You see, just like I said to Patrick Willis back in May 2020, you were one of the players who made me feel alive in a time where everything around me was falling apart. I’ve shared my abuse story countless times, yet, the wound still feels fresh whenever I think about my first few seasons as a 49ers faithful. You and Willis were my much-needed distraction, really.
The first time I ever saw you “Kaepernicking,” I swooned. I had an iPhone 3 at the time and you were undeniably my lock screen background picture. The iconic kiss of your bicep…one that I tried to replicate whenever I needed to feel on top of the world. My ex bought me your jersey for the first birthday we spent together as a couple and I cried when I opened up the package to see the # 7 staring back at me.
Every bit of who you are was inspirational. And this is way before I even knew how hard you worked to get to the NFL, let alone a college team. When you took over as the 49ers starting QB, every bit of my life changed for the better. You took us to a Super Bowl in my first real year as a fan, and to this day, I admire that season as my favourite one to date. Sure, the team lost to the Ravens, but the bigger picture gave me so much more to be grateful for.
Whenever the lights go out in a room, I forever am brought back to that shift in momentum when I thought, Jim Harbaugh would be lifting the Lombardi trophy and you’d be kissing your bicep right beside him while he did so.
Sometimes, we create a version of life for ourselves that makes the hard shit easier to swallow. That Super Bowl loss will forever stick with me. Not because we went home without the shiny hardware…no, that night, I walked back to my ex boyfriend's’ mom’s house where I used to stay with him in the basement.
We both drank too much and had been kicked out of the bar due to my boy mouthing off the manager, who happened to be a Seahawks fan. After one too many tequila shots, we stumbled back home and rather than go directly inside the house, he took out his anger on me and threw me down the stairs. It was a weird situation, though. I remember him pushing me, yet, immediately he reached out his hand to grab my collar, in hopes of saving me from scraping my face along the steps as I tumbled down to the cold ground. He ripped my new Michael Kors jacket and held a piece of it as I flew through the air.
I lay on the pathway for a while and contemplated calling my parents to come pick me up. Which, I eventually did because part of me knew it’d be dangerous to go inside with the person he was in that moment. My parents showed up and my ex sweet-talked them away. The worst part about the whole ordeal is his mom came running outside and witnessed the entire aftermath, to which she yelled at my ex and told him to pick me up.
She had no clue her son abused me every single time he drank.
I looked her in the eyes that night, mascara tears running down my pale face, and admitted that I was scared to be with him; that he had thrown me down the stairs and I didn’t feel safe going to the basement by his side.
She laughed at me and told me she’d fix us a snack…that we were too drunk and just needed to sleep it off.
I woke up the next morning with scratches on my face. My ex had smashed my phone and used a tiny shard of glass to cut me while I was sleeping. When I asked him what happened to my cheeks, he told me that I was a mess and had fallen down due to my own stupidity.
At least that’s what I told my mom and dad when they saw my beat up face the next day.
Whenever I think about that Super Bowl, I don’t think about the loss. I think about how much pain I endured because I was in the wrong relationship. And honestly, had it not been for you, Colin, and the 49ers, I probably wouldn’t be alive today. Because somehow, in spite of all the horror going on behind closed doors, we found peace while cheering you and the team on.
Let’s fast forward to happier times, though.
I’m currently living in Italy with my now fiancé, who is nothing like that boy I dated years ago. He has a bigger heart than anyone I’ve ever met in my life and he’s empathetic—a quality I’ve always longed for in a partner.
Tonight, we watched Colin in Black and White and I let myself feel every emotion I’ve held in since that night back in 2013.
Back then, I always thought I was a second choice.
My ex constantly made me feel like I wasn’t enough; like I had to be this perfect version of some pretty little flower he picked that'd never been touched by a ray of light other than his own. But as fairy tales usually play out, the prince I had fallen for was never really a prince at all. I became trapped in a tower of control and every time I tried to escape, I lost a piece of myself I thought I’d never get back.
Colin, you gave me those pieces back while watching your story. It’s like every empty page of who you were and who I had come to admire back then—who I idolized during a time of warfare in my private life—had finally surfaced and I was seeing each beautiful slide in black and white film.
My life is nothing like what you went through. And it breaks my heart to know that you and so many others have battled through moments that no one should ever have to endure. You’ve always been this Kaepernicking King in my little world of football; a gorgeous light of hope on the days when I felt like I wasn’t able to keep going. Somehow, you throwing a deep bomb to Vernon Davis or handing the ball off to Frank Gore always ignited the fighter in my soul.
I’m so sorry for your adversities. I wish people could have seen you for every bit of who you were back then. I wish I could have been there to tell you it’s going to be okay; that you will go on to do heroic things and stand up for so many by taking a courageous knee.
You changed my life when you took over as quarterback. Because despite years of abuse, I felt alive when I watched you play.
You’re a legend to me (and so many, no doubt) and tonight, you brought me back to that girl I used to be—the girl who would hide her sparkle from those around me, simply because I was suffering alone. But thankfully, I now feel so empowered to know that you were always there, without ever really knowing it. You lifted me up from the ground when I needed it most.
Even after you had been through days, months, and years of constantly picking yourself up and striving for more, too.
You are not only my first choice in football, you’re my first choice as a human being. Everything you’ve done since you’ve made it as a quarterback has changed the lives of so many people around you.
Including me and definitely my future children, too. They will know who you are because you have paved the way for my family and so many others to live in a space that hopefully does not have to ever endure racism the way you (and countless others) did/do.
Thank you for using your voice and your platform to tell a story that goes far beyond the gridiron. You know, you may not have been a lot of team’s first choice. But because of all those rejections, you were chosen to be so much more than just a quarterback.
You took a stand for issues that many before you were afraid to tackle. For that, you aren’t just a college or NFL quarterback:
You are a quarterback of the world.
And whenever I wear the number 7, please know, it’s always for you.
xx - crys