A new Toyota commercial featuring Colin Kaepernick claims the former NFL quarterback's controversial national anthem protest was a "sign of respect to the military."
The ad, which aired Friday morning on Howard University's radio station, says Kaepernick's decision to go "on one knee" during the national anthem "came as a sign of respect to the military" and "changed the world." The commercial also calls Kaepernick a "two-time Super Bowl quarterback," which is false. Kaepernick appeared in one Super Bowl, a 34-31 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
"Colin Rand Kaepernick, a two-time Super Bowl quarterback and NFL record holder, first knelt on one knee during the national anthem in 2016 as a sign of respect to the military and a symbol of protest against police shootings," the Toyota ad says. "He changed the world and sparked a peaceful form of protest that continues around the world."
The ad also features an audio clip in which Kaepernick himself explains his decision to kneel. He does not mention the military in the clip—instead, he says he kneeled to "bring awareness and make people realize what's really going on in this country."
"This country stands for freedom, liberty, justice for all," Kaepernick says in the ad. "And it's not happening for all right now."
The activist made clear in 2016 that he kneeled during the anthem to protest police brutality. In an interview at the time, Kaepernick said he would not "stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppressed black people and people of color."
Toyota did not return repeated requests for comment on the ad and its apparent partnership with Kaepernick. The automaker is not the only major company to feature Kaepernick in an advertising campaign. Roughly two years after he first protested the national anthem in a 2016 preseason game, Kaepernick signed a multiyear contract with Nike worth millions of dollars. The sportswear giant went on to prominently feature Kaepernick in an ad campaign with the slogan "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything."
Kaepernick has taken on a number of radical positions since his initial anthem protest. In October 2020, he penned a Medium post that expressed support for abolishing both police and prisons. The post, which includes a section titled "fuck reform," accuses police of "terrorism" and calls for "a future without the terror of policing and prisons."
"In order to eradicate anti-Blackness, we must also abolish the police," Kaepernick wrote. "The abolition of one without the other is impossible."
In addition to its Kaepernick collaboration, Toyota is an official worldwide partner of the Olympics. The company remained largely silent in the buildup to the 2022 Winter Games, which are taking place in China, where up to two million Uyghur Muslims are being held in internment camps.