The Warriors didn’t have Kevin Durant or Andre Iguodala for Monday’s Game 4 of their Western Conference finals series against the Portland Trail Blazers. However, to help celebrate its sweep of Portland, Golden State did have another notable Bay Area athlete on hand: Colin Kaepernick.
The former 49ers quarterback was a much-noted presence while seated courtside in Portland, near the Warriors’ bench, as they booked their fifth straight trip to the NBA Finals by defeating the Blazers, 119-117, in overtime. Underneath a black jacket, Kaepernick was wearing a shirt showing a photo of Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X when both were with the Nation of Islam.
After the game, Kaepernick shared a moment on the court with the Warriors’ Stephen Curry and Curry’s young son Canon. Kaepernick, who spent all six of his NFL seasons with San Francisco after it made him a second-round pick in 2011, was subsequently spotted outside Golden State’s locker room as the team accepted its trophy for again winning the West.
“Being in the Bay so long, I’ve always followed them,” Kaepernick said of the Warriors to the San Francisco Chronicle. “And they’ve always supported me.”
Kaepernick, who led the 49ers to two straight NFC championship games and a Super Bowl appearance in 2013, has been out of the league since March 2017, after he became the first NFL player to protest social injustice by taking a knee during the national anthem. He filed a grievance against the league, accusing team owners of colluding to punish him for his activism by keeping him from joining an NFL roster after he became a free agent. He and the NFL settled that grievance in February.
In October 2017, Warriors Coach Steve Kerr said it was “a no-brainer” that Kaepernick was “being blackballed” by the NFL. Kerr added, “All you have to do is read the transactions every day, when you see the quarterbacks who are getting hired. He’s way better than any of them.”
In January 2018, Curry and Durant each gave $10,000 in matching contributions to a charity drive being conducted by Kaepernick, in which he donated a total of $1 million to community-minded organizations. “Thank you for all that you do brother,” Durant, who later suggested that his hometown Washington Redskins sign Kaepernick, said at the time to the quarterback on Twitter.
After winning an NBA title in 2017, Curry made it clear that he and his Warriors teammates had no interest in making the traditional champions’ trip to the White House while President Trump, a sharp critic of Kaepernick and other protesting NFL players, was in office. This year, after going back-to-back, Golden State instead used a trip to Washington to spend time with former president Barack Obama.
At the start of the 2018 NFL season, Nike made Kaepernick the centerpiece of a major new ad campaign, despite the fact that he had been out of the NFL for a year and a half at that point. Kaepernick wore Nike shoes to the game Monday in Portland but told the Chronicle that his presence had nothing to do with promoting the sports-apparel company; rather, the newspaper said, he was “was just enjoying some basketball.”