Colin Kaepernick may be the most criminally unemployed NFL player in the free agency pool today, but the actions that brought him to this point continue to pay off.
Kaepernick was named Amnesty International’s “Ambassador of Conscience” for 2018 on Saturday. The award recognizes the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback’s act of kneeling during pre-game national anthem performances, a choice that eventually cost him his job, and likely his NFL career as well.
The protest action started with a simple intent: Bring attention to racial inequality in America, specifically racially motivated police brutality. It’s been attacked by various critics, including Donald Trump himself, as unpatriotic and wrong. But that willful mischaracterization in and of itself also reinforces Kaepernick’s statement.
“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 upon receiving the awards (h/t ABC News).
“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?”
Kaepernick is now a full season removed from his last days on the field as a 49er in 2016. He didn’t play at all in 2017, with QB-needy teams regularly passing him over in favor of players widely regarded as “career backups.”
Is that really so bad, though? In his post-NFL life — which may not last forever, though it sure looks that way right now — Kaepernick has done more with his personal platform than he likely ever could have as a professional NFL player.
He’s won numerous awards and honors over the years, and he’s used his fame/notoriety to continue hammering home the same message he set out to send in 2016, only to a far wider audience. The league might have pushed him out for taking a partisan stance (even though it’s insane that a desire for racial equality is considered “partisan”), but Kaepernick keeps on winning in all the ways that matter.