The officer-involved shooting death of Mario Woods at the hands of the SFPD in December 2015 was a direct inspiration for the NFL "take a knee" protest that divided the country and negatively impacted the career of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
In a new interview with Paper magazine, Kaepernick reveals that it was the shooting of Woods in San Francisco's Bayview District — which he refers to as an "execution" — that led him and longtime girlfriend Nessa Diab to start discussing a "Know Your Rights Camp" (KYRC) for black youth. The first camp was held in October 2016, and that football season, Kaepernick made waves by taking a knee for the first time during the singing of the national anthem.
He and other players of color who followed his lead were accused of being un-patriotic, but he said at the time, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
Diab tells Paper that Kaepernick also spent that year educating himself about the history of Black resistance and political movements.
"If Colin wasn't reviewing a playbook," recalls Nessa, "he was reading a history book." Week after week, Kaepernick could be found devouring texts on the global struggle for Black freedom and self-determination. His bookshelf was overflowing with titles like The Autobiography of Malcolm X; Women, Race, & Class by Angela Davis and Huey P. Newton's autobiography, Revolutionary Suicide. The texts offered Kaepernick ideas for architecting the camp and its curriculum.
Kaepernick became a free agent in March of 2017, but no team has bitten ever since. He and volunteers have since hosted six installments of KYRC, in Harlem, Chicago, New Orleans, Amsterdam, Miami and Baltimore, with the latter seeing 450 attendees.
Kaepernick continues to post updates to a clock he has running on Instagram, last updated a week ago, showing that he's been "denied work" for almost 900 days, though he's "still ready" to go back.
As NBC New York notes, this is the first time that Kaepernick has spoken specifically about any of the officer-involved shootings in that period, and has previously only spoken generally about police violence.
Woods was a suspect in a stabbing when he was confronted by police in the Bayview on December 2, 2015, and was ordered to drop a knife in his hand. The controversial case included claims by officers that Woods had lunged or threatened an officer, and multiple eyewitness accounts and cellphone videos that suggested otherwise. He was shot a total of 20 times, and the case was a flashpoint in the national debate over police violence against people of color. Woods' mother would ultimately settle a civil suit against the city for $400,000, which happened earlier this year.