Colin Kaepernick Received A Fitting Award For His Activism And Reminds Us What’s At Stake

“We all have an obligation no matter the risk.”

NFL star Colin Kaepernick hasn't played professional football since 2016, but as he said at the 2017 Sportsperson of the Year Awards last night, December 5, he doesn't need the NFL's platform to continue working for the people.


The 30-year-old, who most recently played as quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, attended the award show to accept Sports Illustrated's Muhammad Ali Legacy Award.

The magazine gave him the award for his activism regarding racial injustice and police brutality, which started in August 2016 when he decided not to stand during the national anthem at NFL games. 

"To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way," Colin said when his protest started, per Sports Illustrated. "There are bodies in the street," he said then, "and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

Other players have started kneeling at NFL games, too, so much so that the NFL tried to cut a deal last week. In documents reviewed by ESPN, the league proposed donating nearly $100 million to thee organizations — the United Negro College Fund, Dream Corps, and the Players Coalition — in hopes of ending the protest. ESPN notes the NFL players are divided about the deal, and Slate says Kaepernick either opted out of the negotiations with the league or was blocked from attending. NFL players continued kneeling at this week's games, though, so it seems they're holding out for the league to make a more substantial commitment to justice.

Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated applauds the way Kaepernick has stayed steadfast in his truth. "He has not wavered from it," Michael Rosenberg wrote. "He does not regret speaking it. He has caused millions of people to examine it. And, quietly, he has donated nearly a million dollars to support it." (Kaepernick has pledged to donate $1 million plus all his jersey sale proceeds from 2016 to organizations working in oppressed communities.)

Beyoncé, a surprise guest at the award show last night, also sang his praises. "Colin took action with no fear of consequence or repercussion only hope to change the world for the better," she said, per NBC News. "To change perception, to change the way we treat each other, especially people of color."

Then it was Kaepernick's turn at the mic. "I accept this award knowing that the legacy of Muhammad Ali is that of a champion of the people, and one who was affectionately known as the 'People's Champ,' " Kaepernick said in his acceptance speech.

"I accept this award not for myself but on behalf of the people. Because if it were not for my love of the people, I would not have protested. And if it was not for the support from the people, I would not be on this stage today."

Kaepernick was also honored on December 3, when the ACLU bestowed him with the Eason Monroe Courageous Advocate Award.

"We must confront systemic oppression as a doctor would a disease. You identify it, you call it out, you treat it, and you defeat it," the former QB said in his speech at that event, per CNN.

"We all have an obligation no matter the risk, and regardless of reward, to stand up for our fellow men and women who are being oppressed with the understanding that human rights cannot be compromised."

Those weren't the only honors: Time listed Kaepernick on its Person of the Year shortlist earlier this week, and GQ named him the Citizen of the Year last month.

"He's been vilified by millions and locked out of the NFL," the GQ editors wrote. "But Colin Kaepernick's determined stand puts him in rare company in sports history: Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson — athletes who risked everything to make a difference."


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