KCCI’s Racist Response to Colin Kaepernick’s National Anthem Protest

KCCI isn’t exactly a paragon of journalism ethics, but the central Iowa TV news station took things a step further than usual last weekend on Facebook, sharing an Associated Press wire story about how NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the National Anthem with the message, “Adopted and raised by white parents, this NFL quarterback won’t stand for a country that ‘oppresses black people.’”

The fact that the adoptive parents of Kaepernick are white received just a passing biographical mention halfway through the AP story republished on KCCI’s website: “Kaepernick, who is biracial, was adopted and raised by white parents. He has been outspoken on his Twitter account on civil rights issues and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.” Yet the comment isolated the detail about his adoption, dismissively pairing it with a partial quote instead of simply stating he was protesting police violence against African Americans, as if whether racism still exists in America was an opinion up for legitimate debate.

The implication was clear, and echoed the the racist framing of some sports commentators and conservative pundits: Because the athlete was raised by a white couple (his biological father, who was black, didn’t support Kaepernick’s mother, a white teenager who gave him up for adoption) and went on to make millions in the NFL, he was ungrateful and unqualified to take a stand against racial injustice.

Or as Khaled Beydoun, a critical race theorist at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, laid it out:

On Facebook, KCCI routinely panders to the lowest common denominator, sharing content with clickbait potential, oftentimes wire stories having nothing to do with Iowa, and riling up its followers by playing up controversies, weird news, and police reports about sordid crimes. It moderates comments to filter out profanity, but rarely does anything about the thinly veiled racism and other insults commonly posted. The comments on the Kaepernick post were a telling example of the readership the station’s gathered on social media as a result, including…

Someone criticizing Kaepernick, saying if he “really [gave] a crap about how people are treated in this world” he would donate his time and money to a charitable cause (he has):


Someone claiming racism doesn’t exist in Iowa or the country because the president is black and got more votes in the state than his Republican rivals:


A couple people commenting that Kaepernick looks like a terrorist:


Someone arguing whites face discrimination, too, and suggesting black people wouldn’t get shot by police if only they’d follow the law:


Someone claiming whites are a minority group in the United States:


Someone else saying that the National Anthem “isn’t about race” (in fact, journalists have pointed out that it was written by a slave owner and its third verse explicitly celebrates the murder of black people):


Considering what happened to its recently departed reporter Emmy Victor, a black woman, KCCI’s racist post also has an element of irony. Victor was praised in national news outlets by her colleagues after the distraught mother of a man shot to death by police officers in Boone yelled racial slurs at her and the station published a video of the incident, Cops-style, on its website. Not long after, Victor announced her departure from KCCI, telling the Des Moines Register that “racism in the state did not help my decision to stay” in central Iowa.

KCCI did not respond to a request for comment. As of the publication of this article, its Facebook post has not been taken down or edited.

Gavin Aronsen
Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.