Our experiences as a child are instrumental in molding us into the adults that we eventually become, in combination with environmental factors such as where we live and the parents who raise us. For this reason, adoption in particular can completely alter the potential growth of someone who may not have otherwise had the best chances in life.
Colin Kaepernick was adopted by Rick and Teresa Kaepernick, welcomed into the new household when he was barely a few months old. Along with his new parents, his new family also had two siblings, Kyle and Devon.
Prior to 2016, you may have known Kapernick primarily for his football career, though as of late he has become better renowned for his involvement and activism in a variety of civil rights issues. How much of his beliefs have been informed by the circumstances surrounding his own upbringing?
Kaepernick’s Adoptive Parents
Kaepernick’s adoptive parents had just recently gone through the heartache of losing two newly born children. Their two sons Lance and Kent were the victims of heart defects, and despite the trauma of the event, the Kaepernicks still wanted to have a third child, though likely weren’t willing to go through the possibility of more tragedy.
Fortunately for them, the solution was waiting for them in the guise of Heidi Russo. She had given birth to her son on November 3, 1987.
The timing of the birth had been cruel to Russo, however, who was only 19 at the time. To make matters worse, the father of her child had absconded, leaving Russo with little in the way of support for herself and her newborn child.
It’s easy to judge situations like Russo’s from a distance. From mothers who successfully accomplished what she could not under what appear to be similar circumstances, all the way to the morally righteous that see the issue as black and white.
The decision certainly wasn’t an easy one, however. Russo was present when Kaepernick was handed over to Teresa, with Teresa’s description of the event painting a heartbreaking picture in the few words that she uses to summarise how it all played out.
Whether you agree with Kaepernick’s thoughts on social and political issues or not, his conviction to his beliefs and his moral compass can’t be contested. Kaepernick faced a tremendous amount of backlash from his actions, both publicly and from the organization that he worked within.
For those of you who missed it, the controversy around Kaepernick arose when he refused to rise for the national anthem during a 2016 football game. The quarterback had initially sat in protest, eventually ending with a kneel, a symbolic gesture that came to define activist movements that followed in the years later.
In a turn of events that Kaepernick himself likely expected, the star quarterback was turned against by many of the players, critics, and the NFL itself. Again, his convictions would be tested, as he not only held to his opinion but essentially doubled down on it, refusing to move for his detractors.
Kaepernick has also had his fair share of support during his fight with the establishment, with none giving more encouragement than his adoptive parents. Although there were accusations that they weren’t vocal enough, they have been incredibly supportive about the idea that their son does what he feels is right.
Although he had a loving family that raised him as one of their own, Kaepernick still faced problems stemming from the fact that he was biracial and had white parents. Perceived social stigmas and the bigoted mindsets prevalent in some parts of society meant Kaepernick faced a variety of different racially charged issues growing up.
Kaepernick and Russo
Russo has still to meet her biological son, and although it looks doubtful that she will get the chance to do so, she still holds out some hope.
She has had a few words here and there on social media for Kaepernick over the years, mainly in reference to his protests and activism, though they have never earned her any correspondence.
Maybe one day the two will see eye to eye, although judging by their differences of opinions on the issues that Kaepernick fights on behalf of, it’s not likely.