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Colin Kaepernick brings message of inclusion and identity in first children's book, "I Color Myself Different"

Colin Kaepernick's new message to children
Colin Kaepernick writes first children's book 05:07

When former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began taking a knee during the national anthem, he was labeled controversial and quickly found himself in a league of his own.

But it wasn't the first time Kaepernick felt left out. That started decades ago when he was drawing his family for a seemingly simple kindergarten assignment.

In a new autobiographical book, he remembers kids asking, "Why are you the only brown one in your family?" and "Why did you color yourself different?" Kaepernick, who is biracial and adopted by White parents, drew them in yellow crayon and himself in brown.

In "I Color Myself Different," his first children's book, the athlete and activist writes about adapting to adoption — at one point, wondering if "adopted means… different?"

Kaepernick, who played six seasons for the San Francisco 49ers, has not been able to land another job in the league since he began taking a knee to protest police brutality and racial injustice during NFL games. His book brings a message about not fitting in as well as identity and inclusion.

To color himself in the book, Kaepernick picked an artist he hadn't met and who had never even illustrated a children's book before.

"This is, by far, the most high-profile job I've ever done," book illustrator Eric Wilkerson told "CBS Mornings" national correspondent Jericka Duncan.

Wilkerson's work had mostly been sci-fi and fantasy. He's not a football fan and hadn't even heard of Kaepernick until his kneeling made national headlines.

"The fact that they took away the thing that he loved to do most in life just for standing up and speaking out, I just thought that was really horrible," he said.

During the pandemic, the pair huddled up over Zoom to discuss the drawings.

"Every scene that he was in, I wanted there to be this warm, happy color around him," Wilkerson said, adding that Kaepernick was involved in "every stage" of the project.

"It is his story. This is an event that happened in his life," Wilkerson said.

And for Wilkerson, so was someone closer to home. In drawing Kaepernick, he drew inspiration from his own biracial daughter, Leia, who was the same age as Kaepernick in the book.

"This book, from the start, has really been a love letter to my daughter," Wilkerson said.

Photos of Leia holding up a newspaper became the cover. She also got to meet the football star, who had a message for her.

"Keep on going, and do what you like to do," Leia said he told her.

That's a message she adopted from the book.

"Our differences are what make us special," Wilkerson said. "It's not something to be feared. It's not something to be hated. If you can embrace your own magnificence, then you can live a really positive, happy life."

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