Not only did unemployed former San Francisco 49ers star Colin Kaepernick get handed a special Sports Illustrated award, the praise was heaped on by Beyoncé who presented the honor.
Beyonce’s appearance at Tuesday’s Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year ceremony was a surprise and she held nothing back as she gushed over Kaepernick, who sparked outrage and inspired recent protests by other NFL players after he took a knee during the national anthem last year.
And while Kaepernick claimed he was protesting what he described as racial injustice in the United States, the former 49ers quarterback has not played football since, with no other NFL teams signing him on. Yet, he was honored with a special award Tuesday, Sports Illustrated’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award.
Beyoncé was “proud and humbled” to present the award which is given to “former athletes and sports figures who embody the ideals of sportsmanship, leadership and philanthropy as vehicles for changing the world,” ESPN reported. During a video tribute, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who won the Ali Award last year, called Kaepernick a “worthy recipient.”
“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,” Beyoncé said.
“It’s been said that racism is so American that when we protest racism, some assume we’re protesting America,” she said. “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 justice for historically disenfranchised people.”
Kaepernick promised that “with or without the NFL’s platform,” he would continue to “work for the people.”
“I accept this award not for myself but on behalf of the people, because if it were not for love for the people, I would not have protested, and if it were not for the support of the people, I would not be on this stage,” he said. “With or without the NFL platform, I will continue to work for the people, because my platform is the people.”
Kaepernick, who filed a grievance against the NFL in October claiming NFL team owners colluded to keep him unsigned after his protests, acknowledged that the boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who died in 2016, “mentored me without ever meeting me.”
“The footprints he leaves are large,” Kaepernick said, “and his life is and has been a multitextured tapestry that is rich in love, wisdom, life lessons and human kindness. I can only hope that I’m taking steps toward walking on the footsteps that he has left behind for the world to follow.”
Kaepernick was not available for questions and skipped the red carpet prior to the show which will air Friday on NBC Sports Network, ESPN reported.
The controversial quarterback can add his Sports Illustrated’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award to other honors that many would call undeserved, including being named GQ magazine’s “Citizen of the Year” for his activism and the Eason Monroe Courageous Advocate Award by the ACLU of Southern California, presented by Jane Fonda.