NEW YORK - While he’s yet to land a new QB job in the National Football League, GQ magazine named Colin Kaepernick its 2017 Citizen of the Year, saying his take-a-knee protest against racism and police brutality has made him the “man who became the movement.”
The magazine said the decision of the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback to kneel on the sidelines during the national anthem puts him at the same level of other groundbreaking sports stars, including Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson, who risked their careers to take a political stand.
“I'm honored to be recognized by @GQMagazine as Citizen of the Year,” Kaepernick tweeted Monday morning.
Kaepernick “is still, to this day, one of the most gifted quarterbacks on earth. And yet he has been locked out of the game he loves — blackballed — because of one simple gesture: He knelt during the playing of our national anthem,” the magazine wrote.
In 2016, Kaepernick, then a backup quarterback for the 49ers, became the first NFL player to take a knee during the national anthem to protest against systematic oppression.
Back then, he said, “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder. ... This is not something that I am going to run by anybody. I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. ... If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”
His protest was again thrust into the limelight this year when President Donald Trump criticized NFL players who knelt during the games. Trump said the NFL had to enforce rules requiring the players to stand for the anthem.
As other NFL players followed Kaepernick’s lead, Kaepernick himself has remained quiet — a move that he says he’s carefully thought through.
The magazine wrote, “As his public identity has begun to shift from football star to embattled activist, he has grown wise to the power of his silence. It has helped his story go around the world. It has even provoked the ire and ill temper of Donald Trump. Why talk now, when your detractors will only twist your words and use them against you? Why speak now, when silence has done so much?”
Kaepernick hasn’t played professional football for a year though he continues training.
He was photographed in Harlem for the GQ cover story “among the men, women, and children he is fighting for,” according to the magazine.