Colin Kaepernick honored with Muhammad Ali Legacy Award


Grammy nominees show improvement in award diversity

By Ariana Portalatin

Former San Fransisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was honored with the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, given to him by surprise presenter Beyoncé, during the 2017 Sportsperson of the Year Awards Show Dec. 5.

The award, which honors athletes who use their platform to further change, was presented to Kaepernick after his memorable 2016 season spent kneeling in protest of racism and police brutality during national anthems. While facing heavy criticism, Kaepernick continued his fight for the rights of others. With the additional honor of receiving the ACLU’s Courageous Advocate award, Kaepernick’s deeds are finally being recognized. 

Who better to present him with the award than Beyoncé, who voiced her own support of Kaepernick in February during her Super Bowl XLVII halftime performance, one which celebrated black figures in history. 

During the award ceremony, Beyoncé thanked him for his “personal sacrifice.” 

“Colin took action with no fear of consequence or repercussion, only hope to change the world for the better. To change perception, to change the way we treat each other, especially people of color,” the singer said. “We’re still waiting for the world to catch up. It’s been said that racism is so American, that when we protest racism, some assume we are protesting America. So, let’s be very clear. Colin has always been very respectful of the individuals who selflessly serve and protect our country and our communities and our families. His message is solely focused on social injustice for historically disenfranchised people. Let’s not get that mistaken.”

Unfortunately, there have been repercussions. Kaepernick has not been selected to play for an NFL team since opting out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers at the end of the 2016 season when he learned the team had plans to let him go. Kaepernick sued the NFL in October for collusion in not signing him due to his political beliefs. His attorney, Mark Geragos, argues multiple teams chose not to sign him because of Kaepernick’s protests during the 2016 season. 

“If the NFL (as well as all professional sports leagues) is to remain a meritocracy, then principled and peaceful political protests—which the owners themselves made great theater imitating weeks ago—should not be punished and athletes should not be denied employment based on partisan political provocation by the Executive Branch of our government,” Geragos said in an Oct. 15 public statement. “Such a precedent threatens all patriotic Americans and harkens back to our darkest days as a nation. Protecting all athletes from such collusive conduct is what compelled Mr. Kaepernick to file his grievance.” 

Kaepernick was also criticized by President Donald Trump, who suggested the league should have suspended the quarterback for protests that he claimed disrespected the country and military. 

Kaepernick’s protests were not against the country, flag, anthem or anything other than the oppression of people of color condoned by those in power. Many who do not support Kaepernick’s actions do not understand them at all and fail to even try before making their judgments. 

However, Sports Illustrated has made up for any missing support. Kaepernick’s actions successfully sparked a conversation necessary for the betterment of the country and the treatment of minorities as a whole, and this award is in recognition of that.