It’s an open secret that Colin Kaepernick was raised by white adoptive parents. His experiences growing up come out in his Netflix series Colin In Black and White. The show depicts the prejudices he faced growing up biracial alongside white siblings and white parents. 

Kaepernick shot to international fame for protesting police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem. He lost his place in the NFL, and despite support from some quarters, he still received criticism. Colin’s perception in people’s eyes changed during the George Floyd protests, as taking the knee became an international symbol against racism and police brutality. 

Colin has refused to meet his birth mother, Heidi Russo, who gave him up at five weeks old

Colin Kaepernick and Heidi Russo

Colin Kaepernick was born on 3rd November 1987 to Heidi Russo, a white woman. Kaepernick’s dad was an African-American man with Ghanaian, Nigerian, and Ivorian roots. His identity is unknown, as he separated from Heidi before Colin’s birth. 

Heidi was 19-year-old, broke, and without a partner to help raise Colin. She decided to give him up to a financially stable family with other kids and a passion for sports. The Kaepernicks fit the bill perfectly. 

Teresa was a nurse, and Rick worked as a plant operation manager. They had two children, Kyle and Brown, and had lost two sons, Lance and Kent, to heart defects. They wanted a son, and Kaepernick was the perfect fit. Teresa told ESPN:

“I’ll never forget that day. They brought him in an infant carrier and set him down. The birth mother [Russo] was there. I looked at her and she nodded and I just picked him up out of the carrier. The minute I picked him up, I just cried. We gave her a big hug. And she needed a couple more minutes. And then we left.”

Rick told ESPN that Colin’s adoption went as smoothly as they had hoped: “I know it’s not usually smooth with adoptions, but it was. Colin never had adoption issues at all. The only difference is his skin is a little bit browner than ours.”

Heidi believed she had no choice but to let Colin go. “I couldn’t move forward with my life,” she told KDVR. Teresa sent Russo letters and photos to update her on Colin’s progress. Heidi eventually told Russo to stop: She couldn’t stomach the pain. 

Russo became a certified nurse and started a family. She has three sons: Michael, Ethan, and Jett. Together with two other women, Heidi founded the non-profit Three Strands to support birth mothers through adoption. 

Heidi sent Colin a letter to read at 18, but it didn’t change his decision not to meet with her. Before the Super Bowl, he said that he wouldn’t change his mind about not meeting Russo. “It’s just – that’s my family,” he said. “That’s it.” Kaepernick added that he isn’t curious about meeting Russo. 

The Kaepernick’s have encouraged Colin to meet Heidi, but he won’t budge. 

Colin’s birth mother criticized him for taking the knee

Colin Kaepernick

Despite having white parents, Colin still suffered prejudice due to his skin. “It only got worse as I got older and taller,” he told US Magazine. “It didn’t matter how close I stood to my family, somebody would walk up to me, a real nervous manager, and say: ‘Excuse me. Is there something I can help you with?’”

Kaepernick decided to protest against perhaps the greatest symbol of American pride, the national anthem, as it played before the start of perhaps the most American sport of all – American football. 

Protests emanated from all quarters, including from Colin’s birth mother, Heidi Russo. She tweeted: “There’s ways to make change w/o disrespecting and bringing shame to the very country and family who afforded you so many blessings.” 

“The path less traveled doesn’t need to be one of destruction,” she wrote in a subsequent tweet. It took three months for Colin’s parents to voice their support for Colin. Rick and Teresa initially avoided commenting on the matter, but reports claiming they opposed Colin’s actions forced them to speak. Their statement read:

“As his parents, it pains us to read articles and tweets saying that his family does not support him; this could not be further from the truth. We want people to know that we are very proud of our son and admire his strength and courage in kneeling for the rights of others.”

Teresa and Rick’s statement castigated Kaepernick’s critics. It also expressed shock at the ‘amount of racist hatred out there!” The parents admitted that the aftermath of Colin’s statement had opened their eyes to the dire ‘racial atmosphere’ in the USA. “I just want to be on the record that we absolutely do support him,” Teresa told The Undefeated.

Colin’s parents had previously defended him after a columnist criticized Colin because of his tattoos. An annoyed Teresa told USA Today:

“You are categorizing this kid on something like tattoos? Really? That’s how you’re going to define this kid? It’s pretty irritating, but it is what it is.”

“Instead of saying that Colin does all these great things and donates his time to children, this guy is going to make him out like a gangster,” Rick added.