When GQ magazine asked quarterback Colin Kaepernick to help assemble a “dream team” of friends and supporters as part of the magazine’s “Citizen of the Year” cover story, it’s no surprise that rapper J. Cole is one of its members.
Cole, originally from Fayetteville, has been firmly in Kaepernick’s corner throughout the quarterback’s controversial, potentially career-ending “Take A Knee” national anthem protests. Cole is one of the figures quoted in the “Citizen of the Year” article, along with Harry Belafonte, syndicated television personality Nessa and Kaepernick’s former San Francisco 49ers teammate Eric Reid.
But Cole’s allegiance to the player – and his cause – is nothing new. Cole has shown his support for the protests with tweets to Kaepernick directly (“Thank you Colin for your sacrifice”) as well as other protesting players (“God bless every player that finds courage to kneel today. But the real power comes from you deciding to not watch.”).
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Cole has also performed onstage in a Kaepernick 49ers jersey, and has been pictured on Instagram alongside Kaepernick in a T-shirt reading, “I KNOW MY RIGHTS” – a riff on the “Know your rights” theme of Kaepernick’s protests.
In return, Kaepernick has offered his mutual support of his friend. He encouraged people to attend Cole’s shows and later donated $100,000 to Cole’s Dreamville Foundation in August as part of a Million Dollar Pledge. He said the money went to organizations that help fight oppression.
The Grammy-nominated rapper, who has had four straight studio albums reach No. 1 on the Billboard charts, holds forth at length in GQ on Kaepernick’s courage in being willing to give up his career to make a larger point.
He said and Kaepernick have known each other for years; Cole is a fan of the San Francisco 49ers, Kaepernick’s former team.
Here is an excerpt.
“You’re talking about a guy in his athletic prime, who’s lived his whole life dreaming about playing football at a level that millions of kids dream to get to. And in his first big season, he takes his team to within five yards of winning a Super Bowl.
“But then, at some point in time, he becomes conscious about what’s happening in the world. And suddenly something that he’s been doing blindly for his whole life—standing for the national anthem—now feels uncomfortable. Why? Because now it feels phony! It feels like, ‘Man, how can I stand for this thing when this country is not holding itself true to the principles it says it stands for? I feel like we’re lying.’
“And look what happens to him. 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.”