He can’t get an NFL team to hire him, but former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick — whose “take a knee” protest against racism sparked a nationwide movement — was awarded another major human rights prize Saturday, this time from Amnesty International.
The international human rights group honored Kaepernick, 30, with its Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2018, in recognition of his sideline protests against racial inequality. The former San Francisco 49ers star was given the award at a gala ceremony in the Netherlands.
“When high-profile people choose to take a stand for human rights, it emboldens others,” Augusta Quiney, an official with the global organization, told Time Magazine, speaking about the award. “For us, this is an opportunity to be on the right side of history.”
According to the Associated Press, Kaepernick, in his acceptance speech, said that “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.”
“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?” he said. “While taking a knee is a physical display that challenges the merits of who is excluded from the notion of freedom, liberty, and justice for all, the protest is also rooted in a convergence of my moralistic beliefs, and my love for the people.”
Previous recipients of the Amnesty International award — the highest honor given out by the rights group — include South African President Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani education advocate who won the Nobel Prize at 17 years old.
Kaepernick first began his protests in 2016, kneeling during the anthem to draw attention to instances of police brutality against Black citizens. He was not signed for the 2017 season following his release by San Francisco and as subsequently filed a grievance alleging that NFL owners were “colluding” to shut him out of a job.
The quarterback was reportedly invited to work out for the Seattle Seahawks last week. But according to ESPN, the team postponed the visit when Kaepernick said he would not abandon his protests next season.
In response to players’ demonstrations, which were taken up by players across the league and indeed, around the world, the NFL has agreed to commit $90 million over the next seven years to social justice causes.