Colin Kaepernick knew that taking a stand would negatively impact his football career. He did it anyway.
On Saturday, Amnesty International recognized his sacrifice by giving him the Ambassador of Conscience Award.
“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,” Kaepernick said, via the New York Times. “How can you stand for the national anthem of a nation that preaches and propagates ‘freedom and justice for all’ that is so unjust to so many of the people living there?”
Former 49ers teammate Eric Reid, who like Kaepernick is now experiencing the practical consequences of exercising a right given to him by the NFL to not stand during the national anthem, presented Kaepernick with the award.
“Eric introducing me for this prestigious award brings me great joy,” Kaepernick said. “But I am also pained by the fact that his taking a knee, and demonstrating courage to protect the rights of black and brown people in America, has also led to his ostracization from the NFL when he is widely recognized as one of the best competitors in the game and in the prime of his career.”
Previous recipients of the Ambassador of Conscience Award include Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai.
“In truth, this is an award that I share with all of the countless people throughout the world combating the human rights violations of police officers, and their uses of oppressive and excessive force,” Kaepernick said.
Regardless of who agrees or disagrees with Kaepernick’s cause or the manner in which he has chosen to advance it, none can credibly dispute the fact that he has lost his employment in the NFL because of it. Some continue to justify the NFL’s shunning of Kaepernick and Reid by explaining that players who choose to protest during the national anthem are “bad for business” (and by attacking those who speak out in support of them) without recognizing the reality that the NFL gave them the right to protest during the national anthem in 2009, the NFL confirmed the existence of the right to protest during the national anthem after Kaepernick was spotted doing so in 2016, and the NFL reiterated the right to protest during the national anthem when the President suggested that the NFL’s reaction as to any player who protests during the national anthem should be to “get that son of a bitch off the field.”
Although the NFL expressed strong disagreement with that message at the time it was delivered, it’s precisely what the NFL has done to Kaepernick and Reid.