The free-agent football star’s name made headlines last season when, while playing for the San Francisco 49ers, he decided to kneel during the national anthem, in protest of racial inequality and policy brutality. A new debate centers on whether Kaepernick’s activist efforts have gotten him blacklisted from the NFL, bringing commentary from J. Cole, who criticized the Baltimore Ravens for not signing Kaepernick during a recent Baltimore stop on his 4 Your Eyez Only tour.
J. Cole has been rocking a Kaepernick jersey — both literally and figuratively — since way back. But he’s not the only musician who to show support for the controversial player. Below, an all-star roster of other music industry giants who are on Kaepernick’s team, too.
When Drogas Light rapper Lupe Fiasco dropped the politically-charged “Kneelin’ On Needles” back in April, he made no effort to disguise who the track was referring to. On the track, which displays Kaepernick’s infamous number seven as its cover art, Lupe raps, “And it’s not about natural ability/ You would think that Kaep took a shat on the Statue of Liberty/ God damn, It’s like we’re trapped in a memory/ Untrue facts where black is an injury/ It makes we wanna snap, just slap me an enemy.”
It shouldn’t come as a suprise to fans of Public Enemy‘s socially conscious hip-hop that leader Chuck D came out in support of Kaepernick last year. Tagging the football star in a Twitter post, the rapper noted that Kaepernick’s “statement rings right now,” and even urged other players to join in the protest, adding that “today’s jocks must speak up.” Later in 2016, when Kaepernick was tapped as the starting quarterback for the 49ers, Chuck D offered another message of support in photo form.
Back when Kaepernick first ignited debate over the national anthem, John Legend weighed in on Twitter — with a touch of humor. “For those defending the current anthem, do you really truly love that song? I don’t and I’m very good at singing it. Like, one of the best,” the “All Of Me” crooner wrote.
Speaking to Complex a month later, he went as far as to compare Kaepernick to legendary activist Martin Luther King Jr. “Dr. King was unpopular while he was alive — he’s only popular now because he’s dead and not a threat to anyone,” Legend said. “I feel like people are doing the same thing with Kaepernick. The reality is he’s protesting black men and women — people of color — getting shot by police when they’re unarmed, and those police facing no consequences.”
Rapper T.I. made his support for Kaepernick clear last August, posting a photo of the football player with the words “WE SALUTE COLIN KAEPERNICK” to his Instagram. He also posted a photo of Francis Scott Key, who penned the National Anthem, captioned by a lengthy rant in which he notes he was suspended in middle school for refusing to stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance.
Like J. Cole, Trey Songz has also been spotted sporting a Kaepernick 49ers jersey. During a Labor Day performance in Las Vegas last year, in fact, both rappers donned the jersey.
Embattled singer and rapper Chris Brown has faced many of his own controversies over the years, but he didn’t mince words when offering support for Kaepernick last year. “Proud of my brother [Kaepernick] for actually trying to be the change by setting the example,” Brown wrote on a since-deleted Instagram post. When the artist took a seat for the National Anthem during a celebrity basketball game in Los Angeles in September 2016, many questioned whether the move was intended to follow Kaepernick’s cause.
TINA KNOWLES LAWSON
Tina Knowles Lawson — yep, that’s Beyoncé’s mom — posted a scathing criticism of those offended by Kaepernick’s national anthem protest to Instagram. “Here is a man that is taking a non-violent stand to bring attention to this horrible problem,” Lawson wrote in an essay-long caption. “He is truly being brave. Please support him for stepping out and taking a stand.”
A Bay Area resident, Carlos Santana spoke up in support of the then-49ers QB last October. “I love it. I think he stepped up. I salute my brother,” the legendary rock star told Billboard. “For [Kaepernick] to put one knee down and other people are copying him, I think it’s wonderful.”