Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been given this year’s Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award for his commitment to highlight racial disparities in America.
In receiving the honor, Kaepernick decried the continued racism that exists in the United States.
"Racialized oppression and dehumanization is woven into the very fabric of our nation — the effects of which can be seen in the lawful lynching of black and brown people by the police, and the mass incarceration of black and brown lives in the prison industrial complex," he said.
Kaepernick began a silent protest by sitting, and eventually kneeling, during the singing of the national anthem at NFL games in the preseason of 2016. He explained that while he has “great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country,” he was going to continue his protest to promote his cause.
“This is because I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice, people that don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard, and effect change,” he said in 2016. “So I’m in the position where I can do that and I’m going to do that for people that can’t.”
Kaepernick was eventually released by the 49ers in the spring of 2017. He was a free agent for the remainder of the year and encouraged other players in the NFL to kneel during the anthem.
Many did, to the disgust of President Donald Trump. The president’s comments, in fact, drew more attention to the protest, even earning Trump the ire of many NFL players who weren’t taking part in it.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b***h off the field right now...He is fired,” Trump said in September last year.
Amnesty International took notice of Kaepernick’s persistence in his protest, as well as his success in highlighting racial disparities, specifically in police treatment of people of color. In a statement commending the former NFL quarterback, the organization wrote, “Just like the Ambassadors of Conscience before him, Colin Kaepernick chooses to speak out and inspire others despite the professional and personal risks.”
Past recipients of the award, which began in 2003, include rock and roll group U2, activist Malala Yousafzai, and the late South Africa President Nelson Mandela.
Kaepernick is deserving of this honor. He made his stand by kneeling, urging others to understand that he was doing so to spark a conversation on racial inequality. He lost his job in the process and has had a hard time finding a new team to play for because of it.
Where others might have given up, recognizing that they were in the prime of their athletic lives and running out of time professionally to make an impact on their sport, Kaepernick stood firm and held true to his beliefs. Even those who do not support his cause must admit that takes a lot of guts.
Banner/Thumbnail Credits: Reuters