He may be a former NFL player and inspiring Eminem to take a knee but to Colin Kaepernick’s parents, (adoptive mother Teresa and adoptive father Rick), the Quarterback is just their son. Shedding a light on one-half of Colin’s parental support, let’s take a look at the biography of his mother: Teresa Kaepernick!
Teresa Kaepernick: Who Is Colin Kaepernick’s Adoptive Mother? 10 Facts!
Coming out of college, Colin Kaepernick was considered a standout football player, eventually being called up by the San Francisco 49ers in 2011. The talented former quarterback of the double threat led them to the Super Bowl in 2013. But in 2016, he became one of the country’s most polarizing figures when he decided to kneel during the national anthem before the games. He did so to protest racial inequality and police brutality – but he also opened a can of worms. One that would expose the true identity of his birth mother and his adoptive mother: Teresa Kaepernick.
1. Teresa Kaepernick is Colin’s adoptive WHITE mother:
Biologically speaking, Colin’s mother Heidi Russo, who was 19 at the time, gave him up for adoption when he was five weeks old in 1987. (The identity of his biological father is unknown but we know that he is an African-American who abandoned Colin and his pregnant mother).
Soon, Colin was put up for adoption at about 5 weeks old until he was finally adopted by Rick and Teresa Kaepernick. Since his adoptive parents lost two children at birth to heart defects, Rick and Teresa decided to adopt another child to expand their family which included their two biological children, son Kyle and daughter Devon.
When Rick started working as an operations manager at the Hilmar Cheese Company in California, the family moved to Turlock, a predominantly white town. Colin’s birth mother Heidi initially received his photos and updates about his life from the Kaepernicks. But when the future NFL quarterback was about 7 years old, she asked them to stop because it was too painful for her. Later, Heidi had hope for a relationship with Colin. Rick and Teresa have always been by her side and share a close bond with him. Also, Colin never misses an opportunity to show his gratitude and affection towards his parents.
2. His mother supports his political views:
There was a lot of negative press around the Kaepernick name after Colin got down on his knees to protest the racial divide and police brutality in America. Unfortunately, Colin was also the target of racist tweets.
After choosing football over baseball in college, Colin played exceptionally well as a quarterback for the University of Nevada, Reno, eventually earning a spot in the National Football League. However, the aftermath of Colin Kaepernick’s decision to protest racial inequality by kneeling was divisive. Fortunately, his adoptive parents have always supported him and, in a statement, said: We want people to know that we are very proud of our son and we admire his strength and courage in taking the knee for the rights of others.
In a statement of support for their son, Rick and Teresa Kaepernick added: “We were really shocked at how much racist hate there is! Until that happened, we naively believed that the racial atmosphere in this country was much better than it actually is”.
3. She’s a strong lady, was once called a “bitch” by Trump:
In 2016, Colin inspired dozens of NFL players and athletes to organize silent protests after he took a knee during the national anthem at a San Francisco 49ers game in protest of racial injustice and police brutality. But during an interview with CBS Sports in 2017, Teresa responded to former President Donald Trump by referring to any NFL player who protests the national anthem as a “son of a bitch.”
After Trump’s statement, Teresa tweeted, “Guess that makes me a proud bitch! ”. According to CBS Sports, the mother of the NFL quarterback said she was surprised by the response to her tweet: 33,000 retweets followed after she published hers.
“As a mother, you are protective of your child,” said Colin’s mother defending her son in response to Trump. “I’ll grant you he’s a 29 year old man, he doesn’t need my protection, but boy when someone insults someone you love, and your first instinct is to really want to go after him.”
She continued: “I saw on Twitter that he had said it and I said to my husband, ‘What the hell.’ And I looked to see what was being said and thought, ‘Oh man, this is just ridiculous that he continues to attack private citizens like this and continues to fail to see what free speech is and just refuses to acknowledge them.’ kind of things ‘”.
“I didn’t think what I said was a big deal, and really a typical response on my part,” Teresa said. “I texted my sisters. I have four sisters and I was like, ‘You’re not going to believe this, the president just called me a bitch,’ and we laughed about it.”
4. Teresa Kaepernick couldn’t fully connect with a black child:
In the 2018 VH1 special, Dear Mom: A Love Letter to Moms, the former NFL star discussed what it was like to be a foster child of white parents.
In an interview with Ebony in 2021, Colin revealed that his white parents often “didn’t feel comfortable having” some reservations with his white parents growing up. “I wouldn’t say I regret it,” he said. “I don’t like to see things that way, because I feel like that’s part of our journey and the path to where we need to go. One of the parts of being black and being adopted into a white family, [is that there] are conversations that I just couldn’t have or didn’t feel comfortable having. I wish I had a mentor to go to in those moments so I can have those conversations that help me better navigate what I’m facing.”
Colin has also written a children’s book, I Color Myself Differently, which is also inspired by his childhood as an adoptee.
The footballer’s book “I Color Myself Differently” book description reads: “When Colin Kaepernick was five years old, he was given a simple school assignment: draw a picture of you and your family. Along with his classmates, a young Colin picks up his brown crayon and it changes his entire world and his worldview, providing a valuable lesson in how to embrace and celebrate his black identity through the power of radical self-love and the knowledge of his inherent worth.”
5. Many strangers thought Teresa Kaepernick wasn’t Colin’s mom:
Even from a young age, Rick and Teresa (Colin’s adoptive parents) were always open about adopting Colin. In an interview, the former football player and civil rights activist said: “I knew I was different from my parents and older brother and sister. I never thought it should be white. Or black too. My parents just wanted to let me be who I needed to be”.
However, Colin still faced some issues as a child due to his skin color. When he went on vacation and arrived in the lobby of a motel, he was seen differently. In this sense, the ex-NFL player added:
“No matter how close I was to my family, someone would approach me, a very nervous manager, and say, ‘Excuse me. Can I help you with something? ‘ But Colin’s parents instilled in him a great value system that also extended into his adulthood”.
6. Regardless, Colin loves his adoptive family:
Colin’s mother, Teresa Kaepernick, and his father, Rick Kaepernick, raised the footballer to be the person he is today.
“You have a family you love, but you know you don’t look alike. And from a very young age I understood that I was different; I didn’t understand what that meant. So as I got older, it was something that developed. As my identity developed and my place in society and my understanding of that developed, my parents and family developed as well,” she said. He continued: “But it’s been one that [they’ve] worked through and [they’ve] always been very loving in the process… I wouldn’t do it with anyone else.”
7. Teresa Kaepernick recalls Colin’s day of adoption:
If you’ve seen The Netflix limited series ‘Colin in Black & White’, you know that the former NFL star discussed adoption. One person whose opinion and voice in this matter we wish to highlight is his mothers.
“I’ll never forget that day,” said Teresa during an ESPN feature story in 2013. “They brought him in an infant carrier and set him down. The birth mother [Russo] was there. I looked at her and she nodded and I just picked him up out of the carrier. The minute I picked him up, I just cried. We gave her a big hug. And she needed a couple more minutes. And then we left.”
On the other hand, Colin’s birth mother reflected on that day saying: “I knew I couldn’t have given my son the kind of life he deserved when I got pregnant,” Heidi Russo discussed about why she gave Colin up for adoption. “I had him for about six weeks before I put him up for adoption, and what a blessing it was that Teresa and Rick Kaepernick were able to step up and raise Colin.”
8. Teresa Kaepernick worked as a nurse to support her kids:
Now rich and famous, the former NFL star came from really humble beginnings in the middle-class category but because there were 3 mouths to feed, both of Colin’s adoptive parents worked hard to pay for the things their children needed at school.
For example, Rick Kaepernick (Colin’s adoptive father) worked as the operations manager for the Hilmar Cheese Company during Colin’s childhood. In a 2013 interview with CBS Sacramento, Colin’s father joked that his job doesn’t pay as well as his son’s profession: “Yeah, I still have a job last time I checked. That one pays pretty well. This one doesn’t pay as well. I think every game that we get closer to the playoffs, it just goes up,” he said.
Speaking of their financial issues with 3 children at home, Colin’s parents once told a story about how he and Teresa promised to buy Colin new sneakers if he did well in baseball. “We’re playing little league and Mrs. Kaepernick says ‘if you hit a double, I’ll get you some tennis shoes,’” Rick said. “Well, he had been scolding me and wanting sneakers that I didn’t want to buy,” added Teresa, “Of course he has a double, so he’s waving and dancing and pointing at his feet, and I’m like ‘oh no’.
Rick also reflected on what it was like to watch his son compete in the Super Bowl. “It’s fun to watch because at the end of the day, they may be 25 years old, but they’re still kids,” he said. As for why he’s most proud of Colin, Rick explained, “I’m really proud of him because he still drives his college car. He hasn’t had that need to buy a car yet, but he’s fine… I think I want him to continue to be the person that he is. Be true to yourself, don’t follow the path and do the right thing.”
9. Teresa Kaepernick is portrayed by Mary Louise Parker in Colin In Black and White:
Moments of the footballer struggling with his racial identity and knowing his place in society with white parents were featured in his 2021 Netflix miniseries Colin in Black and White, a six-episode drama series about his teenage years.
Here, viewers can experience the player’s history depicted by Mary-Louise Parker, the actress who played his mother, while the actor Nick Offerman (from the TV series Parks and Recreation) plays the role of his father.
10. Where is Teresa Kaepernick now?
These days, Colin Kaepernick’s father Rick, and his mother Teresa appear to live in Turlock, California and are also grandparents. You can catch her most recent big TV appearance on Netflix’s ‘Colin in Black & White’, which chronicles his adolescence as an up-and-coming baseball and football player finding his place as he tries to fit in as a multiracial child.
Adopted by white parents, Rick and Teresa, Colin has found love that has transcended time and hardship.