The Kaepernick Effect

Taking a Knee, Changing the World

Riveting and inspiring first-person stories of how “taking a knee” triggered a political awakening among athletes of all ages and levels, from the celebrated sportswriter

“With profiles of courage that leap of the page, Zirin uncovers a whole national movement of citizen-athletes fighting for racial justice.”
—Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award–winning author of Stamped from the Beginning

Hailed by Publishers Weekly in a starred review as “an enthralling look at the impact of peaceful protest by sports figures at the high school, college, and professional levels,” The Kaepernick Effect explores the story of how quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s simple act of “taking a knee” spread like wildfire throughout American society, becoming the preeminent public symbol of resistance to America’s persistent racial inequality.

In this powerful book, critically acclaimed sports journalist and author Dave Zirin chronicles “the Kaepernick effect” for the first time, through “a riveting collection of first-person stories” (The Nation) from high school athletes and coaches, college stars and high-powered athletic directors, and professional athletes across many different sports—from Megan Rapinoe to Michael Bennett. In each case, he uncovers the fascinating explanations and motivations behind what became a mass political movement in sports.

“Necessary reading for all, especially those who want to make a difference in promoting social justice, equity, and inclusion, and end police brutality” (Library Journal, starred review), The Kaepernick Effect is for anyone seeking to get involved in the new movement for racial justice in America: “Take a knee, everyone, and start a revolution” (Kirkus Reviews).


“In this captivating book, Zirin puts into sharp relief the activist potential of young athletes, and how they can serve as dismantlers of intersectional oppression.”
—Kimberlé Crenshaw, co-founder and executive director, African American Policy Forum
“Take a knee, everyone, and start a revolution. . . . A thoughtful anecdotal study of protest in our time.”
Kirkus Reviews
“When I think about Dave Zirin’s body of work, which I do a lot, ‘honesty’ and ‘integrity’ always come first to mind. He challenges you to think, and think carefully, about any and all assumptions you might have. You hear a lot these days about the importance of ‘stepping outside your comfort zone.’ Well,  Zirin has always been there to help with that. The Kaepernick Effect is a perfect marriage of author and subject.”
—Jonathan Coleman, author of Long Way to Go: Black and White in America
“Zirin continues to mine gold from that place where sports and politics meet. . . . A thoughtful take on what remains a complicated, highly charged issue.”
“An enthralling look at the impact of peaceful protest by sports figures at the high school, college, and professional levels . . . offers rousing evidence of the life-changing effects spurred by individual action.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A powerful testimonial. Lessons in civic courage leap from every page as we see these amazing athletes risk everything to change this country and help set the stage for the racial reckoning we now face. Read this book and be inspired to fight for a new America!”
—Eddie S. Glaude Jr., author of Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own
“Dave Zirin . . . allows those influenced by Colin Kaepernick to explain why America wasn’t ready for him—but needed him to show how far we are from where we should want to be as a nation.”
—Michael Lee, sports enterprise writer, The Washington Post
“With The Kaepernick Effect Dave Zirin has offered us a gift: a powerful chronicle of the national uprising inspired by the Movement for Black Lives in the world of sport. This will be the go-to text on athlete activism for years to come.”
—Frank Andre Guridy, author of The Sports Revolution: How Texas Changed the Culture of American Athletics
“Sharp and illuminating and a joy to read, Zirin’s analysis of events is unparalleled for its clarity and force. This book has been missing from our understanding of the current political moment; Zirin has filled the void.”
—Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, author From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
“Across decades, Zirin has been a guide, machete-slicing through the thicket of marketing and mythologizing in sports to get fans closer to the uncomfortable truths. From the right side of history, intent on fairness and justice, he has been warning us about the liars, thieves, hypocrites, and grifters hiding in plain sight in America’s playpen. He has an uncommon grasp of his subject matter, a sculptor’s attention to detail and a historian’s expertise, and the combination is worthy of your applause. Kaepernick’s work will echo over the years. So, too, will Zirin’s.”
—Dan Le Batard
“An insightful book about the wide-reaching effects of Kaepernick’s protests. This book is highly recommended and is necessary reading for all, especially those who want to make a difference in promoting social justice, equity, and inclusion, and end police brutality.”
Library Journal (starred review)
“A collection of compelling stories that put the reader at the center of the tumultuous, frightening, and stirring protests for racial justice that, when put together, reveal the ways taking a knee transformed sports and the broader society. . . . [An] extraordinary book.”
—Jesse Hagopian, The Progressive
“How many Black people have to die at the hands of racist cops before white America listens to those voices? The Kaepernick Effect needs to be read by those who continue to deny racism and police brutality.”
—Chris Lamb, co-author of Sports Journalism: A History of Glory, Fame, and Technology
The Kaepernick Effect stands alone in capturing the true impact of the former quarterback’s peaceful protest, which was to inspire a generation. Zirin’s interviews with athletes of all ages are meticulous and fascinating, cementing Kaepernick’s status as one of the most significant athletes in American history.”
—Mina Kimes, ESPN
“Dave Zirin hits the bulls-eye with this textured examination of the man behind the movement and the movement inspired by the man.”
—Sekou Smith, NBA TV/ senior analyst

News and Reviews

The Progressive

Read a review of The Kaepernick Effect in The Progressive.


Read an interview with Dave Zirin about The Kaepernick Effect in CNN's Race Deconstructed newsletter.

Sports Illustrated

Read an excerpt from Dave Zirin's The Kaepernick Effect in Sports Illustrated.

Books by Dave Zirin

A People’s History of Sports in the United States
250 Years of Politics, Protest, People, and Play

Dave Zirin

Bad Sports
How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love

Dave Zirin

Game Over
How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down

Dave Zirin

Goodreads Reviews