On Tuesday, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback was presented with Sports Illustrated’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award by none other than Queen Bey.
“Colin took action with no fear of consequence or repercussion,” said Beyoncé. “Only hope to change the world for the better. To change perception, to change the way we treat each other. Especially people of color.”
Kaepernick, who took a knee in protest of police brutality and sparked a national conversation back in August 2016, was given the award during Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year Awards in Brooklyn, New York, hosted by Trevor Noah. Named for the legendary boxer, the Ali Award celebrates individual athletes whose career impacts the world outside sports.
“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.
“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 or without the NFL’s platform, I will continue to work for the people, because my platform is the people.”
Kaepernick was named one of GQ magazine’s “Citizens of the Year” in November. And as recently as Sunday, he was honored at the ACLU of Southern California’s Bill of Rights dinner, with the Eason Monroe Courageous Advocate Award.
All this in spite of undeniable blackballing from the NFL itself.
Previous Ali Award winners include Magic Johnson, Jim Brown, Bill Russell, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who congratulated Kaepernick during a video tribute at the awards.
“He fully embraced the risk to his career in order to remind Americans of the systemic racism that was denying African-Americans their opportunities to equal education, jobs, health and even their lives,” said Abdul-Jabbar, reported by ESPN.
Lonnie Ali, Muhammad’s widow, told Sports Illustrated she was proud to award Kaepernick the award, for his defense of social justice and civil rights.
“Like Muhammad, Colin is a man who stands on his convictions with confidence and courage, undaunted by the personal sacrifices he has had to make to have his message heard. And he has used his celebrity and philanthropy to the benefit of some of our most vulnerable community members.”