Colin Kaepernick on His New Graphic Memoir, 'Change the Game,' and Why Telling His Story Helped Him Grow

The activist, athlete and author opens up to PEOPLE about "enjoying the process" of writing about his choice as a teenager to focus on football over baseball, and shares a never-before published high school baseball photo

Colin Kaepernick for a piece about his newly published YA graphic memoir.
Photo: Kaepernick Publishing

Colin Kaepernick, like many of us, hopes to not only inspire others, but also to give young people the confidence to trust their power. In his newest book Change the Game, he says that telling his story from the perspective of his teenage self, helped him relive that period of emotional growth.

"I was inspired to write Change the Game to help young people navigate complex and nuanced situations they may face with respect to identity, family and major life decisions," says the activist and former NFL player about his new graphic memoir out March 7. The book, aimed at readers 12 and up, was co-written with Eve L. Ewing and features illustrations by Orlando Caicedo.

Colin Kaepernick for a piece about his newly published YA graphic memoir.
'Change the Game' interior spread. Kaepernick Publishing

In 2022, Kaepernick published a book for younger children, I Color Myself Different. Writing for more mature readers presented new challenges, he says, but it focuses on similar themes. "This book is intended for a slightly older audience and deals with more complex issues than I Color Myself Different," he tells PEOPLE in a statement. "The common thread, however, is creating books that give power and agency to the reader, specifically Black and Brown youths."

Colin Kaepernick kids' book
llustrations by Eric Wilkerson from I Color Myself Different (Scholastic/Kaepernick Publishing) ©️ 2022 by Kaepernick Publishing

Both books address a need he remembers facing himself when he was younger. "I wish I had more books with lead characters that looked like me and spoke to the situations that I was dealing with and going through," says Kaepernick, who became a household name in 2016 when he began kneeling during the National Anthem before NFL games in silent protest of police brutality. In the wake of negative press around his actions, Kaepernick went unsigned in 2017 and has not played football professionally since.

Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick. Mike Ehrmann/Getty

Kaepernick, now 35, has stayed focused on the issue, producing Killing County, a 2023 documentary on Hulu about a family standing up to a corrupt police department in California. He has kept himself in game shape, always remaining open to a return to the NFL.

In Change the Game, Kaepernick describes the painful process of choosing football over baseball, a sport in which he also excelled. Going back to his high school years was a challenge, he says, and even more challenging was the need to tell the story so that readers would get the most out of it.

Colin Kaepernick for a piece about his newly published YA graphic memoir.
A never-before published photo of Colin Kaepernick playing baseball for the Pittman Pride baseball team around the age of 16/17. Kaepernick Publishing

"The hardest part of writing this book was being meticulous in the delivery of the stories we are telling to make sure that the conveyed message is received as intended by the reader," Kaepernick says. "I really enjoyed the process of creation. In many ways it felt like a puzzle and making sure all of the pieces fit in the right place to reveal a bigger picture."

Of his collaborator, Eve L. Ewing, a poet and professor, Kaepernick adds, "It was incredible working with Eve. She's extremely talented, thoughtful, collaborative, and handled the stories with care while pushing boundaries. I couldn't have asked for a better partner on this project. And Orlando Caicedo really brought my story to life with his powerful illustrations."

The process was difficult at times, but it had its rewards, he notes. "Writing is challenging and also therapeutic," Kaepernick says. "A writer has to grapple with every element of each character to really bring a story to life and in the process has no choice but to grow."

With two books under his belt, should we expect to see more books from Colin Kaepernick? "Yes," he says. "This is only the beginning."

Change the Game is out now and can be purchased by clicking here.

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