What is it with the NFL and adoption? First “The Blind Side” brought the adoption story of Baltimore Ravens’ Michael Oher to the mainstream, and now San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s adoption journey is all the rage.
And on February 3rd, these two men, forever touched by adoption, face off in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.
One of the common themes in both of these particular adoption stories is the interracial aspect — Oher is African American and Kaepernick is reported to be African American and Caucasian, and both were adopted into Christian, Caucasian families.
Adoption professional Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P. sees interracial adoptions every day. “It warms my heart to meet and work with families who are just ready to love a child, any child, regardless of skin color. Every adopting couple may not be open to this and that’s fine. You shouldn’t adopt interracially if you don’t feel that calling on your heart. But I find that couples who are more open in racial preferences are often more blessed because they have crossed into a different place, of wanting to be more than parents. They want to be parents to someone who may not have any other options.”
Oher plays defense, Kaepernick plays offense. And their adoption stories, too, are as different as night and day. Oher was discovered by his adoptive parents when he was homeless as a teenager in Tennessee. He was in and out of foster homes after being removed from his mother who battled with substance addiction. Kaepernick was adopted at six weeks old in Wisconsin after his 19-year-old mother relinquished him voluntarily. His biological father left when he learned of the pregnancy.
While both men’s stories are vastly different, Caldwell sees similarities. “Clearly we are talking about talented men that may have found ways to excel in the same areas had they not been adopted. However, many adoptive parents value parenthood in a slightly different way — they want to do their best not only by their child, but also by the child’s biological family. This is especially true in interracial adoptions where parents often go out of their way to ensure the child has information and bonds to his racial heritage. In this situation, both families encouraged strong Christian values and a solid work ethic, and backed it up by being there to support and nurture them.”
Would they have found their way to the NFL without adoption? Caldwell doubts it. “Don’t get me wrong, I believe that every one of us is capable of greatness, but these two situations seemed to have provided the opportunities needed to reach the ability to play at this level. It isn’t just talent, it is sticking with everything required in order to play in high school, college, and professionally. Being talented isn’t enough, you also need the discipline to excel above the competition.”
There are many hopeful parents who would love the opportunity to adopt a future NFL player, but it’s more than that, it’s also about family. Melissa and Rich Bobst from Seattle are waiting to adopt, but they are limiting their racial preferences to either full Caucasian or Caucasian mixed with other races. “We are white. Our families are white. We feel like our child doesn’t have to look just like us, but with our two biological daughters, we don’t want our next child to stand out so it’s the first thing people see and ask about.”
Florida couple Jamie and Rob Streets feel the opposite. “We can’t wait to adopt, regardless of race,” says Jamie. “We have been waiting for a child, any child, for all our lives. We believe that every child is a gift from God and we stand ready to accept His blessing. We know we’ll have to deal with it [race], but in the scheme of things, it’s do-able, especially in a multi-cultural area like South Florida.”
Caldwell says that there isn’t a right or wrong. “As adoptive parents, you are making a lifelong commitment to love and care for this child. You have to believe in the preferences you are open to, which include race, age of the child, and others.”
When it comes to the upcoming Super Bowl, Caldwell will be rooting for Kaepernick and the 49ers. “Kaepernick grew up in Turlock, California. That’s my hometown too.” Although it’s a pretty safe bet that when it comes to adoption, both men are winners.