Colin Kaepernick Meets With Iconic Activist Athlete Tommie Smith

Kaino_Kaepernick_Smith_Shahidi - Publicity - H 2017
Glenn Kaino/Facebook

He may not currently be active in the NFL, but Colin Kaepernick — the first player to kneel during the national anthem as a way of protesting social injustice — is still very much in the news.

In late October, it was reported that he had signed a million-dollar book deal with Random House, and now The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that the former San Francisco 49er has quietly teamed with another iconic athlete-activist for a film project.

Well-known L.A.-based artist Glenn Kaino is working with Tommie Smith on a multiyear collaboration titled “With Drawn Arms” inspired by Smith, who, at age 24, raised his fist in the air with the Black Power salute while on the podium after winning gold in the 200-meter sprint at the 1968 Summer Olympics. The project will consist of drawings, sculpture and a film meant to introduce Smith and his activism to a new generation that is facing similar racial unrest.

Kaino is co-directing the film project with Afshin Shahidi (father of Black-ish star Yara Shahidi) along with executive producers John Legend and his Get Lifted Film Co. partners Mike Jackson and Ty Stiklorius, Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams and Smith’s wife Delores.

About the Kaepernick news: Kaino recently posted a photo announcing that Smith and Kaepernick had met — “Here is the first meeting between Colin Kaepernick and Tommie Smith, two icons fighting for equality, separated by 50 years but not separated at all,” he wrote on Facebook Oct. 3 — but when THR caught up with Kaino, he wouldn’t reveal specifics of Kaepernick’s involvement.

“I won’t comment on that on the record,” Kaino says. “This work is about connecting a gesture from 50 years ago to the crisis of our time while really unpacking the notion and inspiring people today to make their mark in what they do.”

Kaino continues that Smith has revealed new stories in this project that detail his motivation and inspiration through the years. “It’s a complicated story because he has not been treated well by this country, and so it’s important for us to understand that so when we see people who are standing up for themselves like Colin Kaepernick now that we understand their sacrifice and treat them appropriately.”

According to the "With Drawn Arms" Kickstarter, elements of the project are set to be revealed at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta on Sept. 29, 2018, with a tour to follow. October 2018 will mark the 50th anniversary of Smith's salute at the Olympic Games. For more information on the project, click here

A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.