Colin Kaepernick sat in front of more than 900 people Friday morning and said the incident in Miami last month was “a bad circumstance” and has “changed my way of thinking.”
“It’s been put out that I did something wrong,” he said at the 21st annual Turlock Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast. “Even though it’s a bad circumstance, a bad situation, I feel like ultimately I’ve been blessed because it’s changed my way of thinking. It’s made me stronger. It’s made me look at things differently.”
Kaepernick, the Turlock-raised quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, received a standing ovation after his first remarks in public about what police termed a “suspicious incident” in a Miami hotel room.
Kaepernick, 49ers wide receiver Quinton Patton and Seahawks wideout Ricardo Lockette are part of an investigation into an incident that involved a 25-year-old woman. They have not been charged with any crimes, while the woman – reportedly a former girlfriend of Kaepernick’s – did not allege any criminal activity in a police incident report.
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Miami police said Kaepernick was not present when they responded to a 911 call from the hotel, reportedly made by Lockette after the woman refused to leave. The woman later awoke in a hospital, not knowing how she got there.
“Even this morning, this is a blessing,” Kaepernick told the crowd at Larsa Banquet Hall in Denair. “It makes me very happy to know that people are staying behind me the way they have.”
Kaepernick took the stage following a performance by local Christian singer Phil King. Former San Francisco Giants pitcher Dave Dravecky, a Turlock resident, served as the emcee.
The hall fell silent as Kaepernick talked with the Rev. Ron Youngdale, pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, where his family has attended for years.
For the first time in the prayer breakfast’s 21 years, all tickets were spoken for before a single one went on sale.
The event, timed to coincide with the National Day of Prayer each year, has featured diverse speakers over the years. They include retired Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North; Cheryl McGinniss, wife of an American Airlines pilot who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; and missionary Steve Saint.
But sports figures always have been a big draw, with past speakers also including Dravecky (his wife, Jan, spoke a few years later), Fresno State and Baltimore Ravens quarterback Trent Dilfer and football coach Mark Speckman, who spoke last year.
None has been the draw that Kaepernick was, with sponsors snapping up tables as soon as they were available.
The Pitman High School graduate covered a variety of topics, including his faith, his tattoos and the mood in the locker room before kickoff. “It’s amazing how spiritual a locker room can become before a game,” he said. “What you see on the field is a lot of people trying to hurt each other. But before the game, you see them on their knees asking for protection.”
The breakfast’s sports theme extended through the program, with Scripture read by Turlock’s Olympic silver medalist rower, Ali Cox, and Hilmar football coach Frank Marques.
Turlock Mayor John Lazar, calling attention “to our favorite son,” awarded Kaepernick the ceremonial Key to the City.
Kaepernick also discussed his faith-based childhood provided by parents Rick and Teresa Kaepernick, who adopted him after they lost two infant sons to heart defects. “My faith has made me what I am today. You realize things were set up a certain way for you,” he said. “I see faith as a reflection of what I’ve been through. ... If they don’t lose those kids, they don’t adopt me.”
Clearly at ease in front of a supportive hometown crowd, Kaepernick clarified the genesis of “Kaepernicking” – when he kisses his bicep after he scores touchdowns. That bicep bears the tattoo, “Faith.”
“There’s a meaning behind how that started,” he said.
His message hit home to people of all ages. Livingston couple Eric and Isabel Davis brought with them their teen son Quian. “I’m raising my son as a Christian and for him to compete in athletics and to put God first in front of everything,” Eric said. “We think he (Kaepernick) is a real role model.”
The crowd also watched a short film featuring Salida-based Camp Taylor, the organization that helps children and families of children with heart disease. Kaepernick has raised thousands of dollars for Camp Taylor.
“Children are brutally honest and so pure,” he said. “They have this excitement for life, and they’re living it.”
Kaepernick’s overriding message was concise: He identified himself as a “man of God” who was raised as a Christian.
“It’s given me a more solid foundation about what’s right and what’s wrong,” he said, “and what I should be doing and what I shouldn’t be doing ... and not putting myself in bad situations.”