Ben & Jerry’s has announced that former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick will join the ranks of Jerry Garcia, Steven Colbert, and Jimmy Fallon with a permanent flavor named for him by the Vermont-based ice cream company. Officially launching in 2021, “Colin Kaepernick’s Change the Whirled,” like the celebrity who inspired it, is vegan and will be a nondairy frozen dessert featuring a caramel sunflower butter base with fudge chips, graham cracker swirls, and chocolate cookie swirls.
The new flavor—and the company’s relationship with Kaepernick—actually started with a shoe. Back in May, Nike released its collaboration with Ben & Jerry’s the Chunky Dunky, and Ben & Jerry’s donated proceeds from that partnership to the COVID-19 relief efforts being done by Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp foundation, says Jay Curley, the ice-cream brand’s global head of marketing. From there, they started talking about other ways to work with one another.
Change the Whirled is the latest expression of the brand’s activism around social justice issues, in which it has advocated to defund the police, called to dismantle white supremacy, released a limited flavor, Justice Remix’d, to raise awareness and funds for criminal justice reform, and used marketing content to spread that message. In September, Ben & Jerry’s launched the Who We Are podcast to discuss the legal discrimination, segregation, and violence Black people have faced in America.
“This isn’t another Justice Remix’d or Save Our Swirled, it’s like Americone Dream or Tonight Dough,” says Curley. “This is a full-time flavor . . . delicious ice cream, with a joyful packaging that honors a man whose words and actions have love rooted in it. Do we expect this to change everyone’s mind? Of course not. But it can open up conversations and, to a degree, challenge people’s thinking and spread the actual message Colin is talking about and the work Know Your Rights Foundation is working on.”
In a statement, Kaepernick said, “I’m honored to partner with Ben & Jerry’s on Change the Whirled. Their commitment to challenging the anti-Black roots of policing in the United States demonstrates a material concern for the well-being of Black and Brown communities. My hope is that this partnership will amplify calls to defund and abolish the police and to invest in futures that can make us safer, healthier, and truly free.”
Know Your Rights director of community outreach Patricia Robinson says the organization is heartened by Ben & Jerry’s commitment to educating themselves, scrutinizing history, and telling the truth with unflinching clarity. “These are the sort of remarkable qualities we admire in our partners, qualities that are increasingly rare as corporations routinely avoid taking stances they perceive could alienate large swaths of consumers,” says Robinson.
Since Kaepernick first took a knee during an NFL game back in 2016 to protest racial inequality and police brutality, he has largely been treated as a pariah. Even Nike’s award-winning and culturally relevant ad that revolved around him didn’t happen until 2018. But this year, in particular after the protests and discussion surrounding the killing of George Floyd, mainstream culture has shifted to Kaepernick’s side. EA Sports added him to Madden NFL 21 as a free agent, after he was available in the game since 2016. Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who heads up the league that essentially blackballed the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, has said that he wished he’d listened earlier to what Kaepernick was saying and trying to bring attention to.
Kaepernick will donate 100% of his proceeds from the flavor to his Know Your Rights Camp. Beyond that, the biggest impact the brand can have with a partnership such as this, says Ben & Jerry’s head of global activism strategy, Chris Miller, is to help continue that cultural shift on these issues. “We can bring and add value to this movement, because we speak to the general population, the mainstream, and we have a unique way of engaging our fans,” Miller says. “We can help continue the shift of sentiment on these issues. We’re fine with controversy. We can step into a place that perhaps diffuses some of that controversy.”
Change the Whirled will be available on store shelves nationwide in the United States, as well as Ireland, the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.