When Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the national anthem to protest social injustices for people of color while a member of the San Francisco 49ers, he was met with praise and vitriol spanning a spectrum like few have seen in this century.
Those who praised him offered their support and commended the courage it takes to risk one’s career for the sake of helping the less fortunate.
Those who opposed him felt the protest was an outward display of disrespect to the flag, military and country that has given him so much due to playing football at the professional level.
As President Donald Trump has combatted the league with his tweeting and even during speeches, more players have joined the cause. Kaepernick started a movement that few saw coming, and it has culminated in a multi-million dollar pledge by the NFL that will go to fighting these social injustices.
As someone who initially took offense to the manor in which Kap was protesting — I have a Grandpa and first cousin who served in the military, and another cousin in the Coast Guard, so the anthem does represent their sacrifice to me — I can honestly admit to being wrong. Kap not only donated millions of his own money, plus proceeds from his jersey sales that went through the roof after his protest began, but he has made the NFL take notice. Everyone is getting involved and making real change happen.
So when he was presented with the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, it made a whole lot of sense. Kap also took the opportunity to make sure the people knew he would be fighting for them with or without his NFL career.
“I say this as a person who receives credit for using my platform to protest systemic oppression, racialized injustice and and the dire consequences of anti-blackness in America,” Kaepernick said at SI’s Sportsperson of the Year ceremony at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
“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. With our without the NFL’s platform, I will continue to work for the people because my platform is the people.”
Despite having stats that represent a more-than-capable NFL quarterback, Kaepernick has not been given an opportunity since the 49ers released him in the spring. It exacerbated the idea that the NFL is black-balling Kap when he remained unsigned through training camp and teams like the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns had a perceived opening, and even more so when teams like the Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers all lost their starting quarterbacks, the latter two for a significant time.
It has to be frustrating for a guy who remains committed to playing in the NFL. Kap’s resolve is being tested on a daily basis and, if this speech is any indication, it remains steadfast.