Colin Kaepernick will not hoist the Lombardi Trophy anytime soon — at least as long as NFL teams refuse to sign him. Instead, he’ll have to “settle” for something else: Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscious Award, which the human-rights organization bestowed upon him Saturday in a ceremony in Amsterdam.
After being introduced Saturday by former teammate Eric Reid, Kaepernick used his acceptance speech to restate why he decided to kneel during the national anthem throughout the 2016 NFL season. Via the Associated Press:
“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.
Kaepernick first took a knee to protest police brutality during the playing of the national anthem when he was with the 49ers in 2016.
“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 at Saturday’s award ceremony.
He confronted racial injustice.
He refused to compromise.
He inspired others.
— AmnestyInternational (@amnesty) April 21, 2018
According to the Amnesty International website, the organization gives its annual Ambassador of Conscience award to “people who have used their talents to inspire others to fight for human rights.” Previous winners have included celebrities such as Alicia Keys and U2, as well as activists including Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai.
Whatever else you might say about Kaepernick, it’s hard to deny that the former quarterback has displayed some remarkable strength of conscience. Since his protest began more than 18 months ago, he has withstood all sorts of criticism, including from the President of the United States, and watched as NFL teams signed quarterbacks such as Austin Davis, Matt McGloin, Kellen Clemens and Tom Savage but not him. And yet when the Seahawks reportedly told him that they wouldn’t sign him unless he pledged to stand for the anthem, he refused to make any promises.
As Kaepernick noted Saturday, he doesn’t seem to be the only one who has struggled to find employment after kneeling during the national anthem. Reid, by all estimations a starting-caliber safety, remains a free agent after assuming Kaepernick’s role as the NFL’s most proud protestor last season. Via the AP:
“Eric introducing me for this prestigious award brings me great joy,” Kaepernick said. “But I am also pained by the fact that his taking a knee, and demonstrating courage to protect the rights of black and brown people in America, has also led to his ostracization from the NFL when he is widely recognized as one of the best competitors in the game and in the prime of his career.”
Perhaps needless to say, Kaepernick is the first football player (and, in fact, the first athlete) to win the Ambassador of Conscience Award.