Colin Kaepernick accepted Sports Illustrated’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award in Brooklyn on Tuesday night, vowing to continue advocating for his cause regardless of whether he plays again.
“I say this as a person who receives credit for using my platform to protest systemic oppression, racialized injustice and the dire consequences of anti-blackness in America,” he said after receiving the award by Beyoncé at SI’s Sportsperson of the Year event at Barclays Center.
“I accept this award not for myself, but on behalf of the people. Because if it were not for my love of the people, I would not have protested. And if it was not for the support from the people, I would not be on this stage today. With or without the NFL’s platform, I will continue to work for the people because my platform is the people.”
Kaepernick sparked controversy last season when, while still a 49ers quarterback, he refused to stand during the pregame national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality in the United States.
Other players supported him, but the movement he started gained new steam — and generated more controversy — after Donald Trump called out players for such actions during a rally in Alabama on Sept. 22. He suggested the NFL “fire” those who protest.
Kaepernick has not signed with any team this season, which many NFL observers believe is as much a consequence of his political stance as his skill level.
Many have criticized Kaepernick and others for their actions during the anthem, seeing it as a sign of disrespect toward members of the military and the larger American community.
In presenting the award, Beyoncé said: “Colin took action with no fear of consequence or repercussion, only hoping to change the world for the better, to change perception, to change the way we treat each other, especially people of color. We’re still waiting for the world to catch up.”
J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans and Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros were honored at the event as joint winners of SI’s annual Sportsperson of the Year Award.