In Depth

NFL: Colin Kaepernick named GQ’s Citizen of the Year

Quarterback who started protest against police brutality praised for ‘risking everything to make a difference’

NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been named as the GQ Citizen of the Year for his ongoing fight against police brutality and racial injustice in the US.

In an editorial announcing the award, GQ said that the decision to make Kaepernick its Citizen of the Year was because he had “risked everything to make a difference”. 

The 30-year-old has been in the global spotlight since staging his first protest at a pre-season game in 2016 - when he sat down instead of standing for the US national anthem. Many people have supported him, but he has also faced criticism from NFL fans, media and US President Donald Trump.

Since opting out of his San Francisco 49ers contract in March, Kaepernick has been without a team. Last month he filed a grievance against NFL team owners, who he claims have colluded to keep him out of the league following his protest.

Because of his “determined stand”, the editors of GQ said, he will now go down in sporting history alongside icons such as Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson.

The editors wrote: “He’s been vilified by millions and locked out of the NFL - all because he took a knee to protest police brutality.

“In 2013, Colin Kaepernick was on the cover of this magazine because he was one of the best football players in the world. In 2017, Colin Kaepernick is on GQ’s cover once again - but this time it is because he isn’t playing football. And it’s not because he’s hurt, or because he’s broken any rules, or because he’s not good enough.

“He 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. And he did it for a clear reason, one that has been lost in the year-long storm that followed. He did it to protest systemic oppression and, more specifically, as he said repeatedly at the time, police brutality toward black people.”

Kaepernick, who has vowed to remain silent about his protest, did not speak in the GQ cover story. The narrative was instead told by his closest friends and confidants, including filmmaker Ava DuVernay, former 49ers teammate Eric Reid, and singer and activist Harry Belafonte.

“In my 90th year of life, to see people like Colin Kaepernick having gotten the message and carrying the cause forward is the greatest reward I could ask for,” said Belafonte. “Colin is a remarkable young man. The fact that he spoke out on police brutality against young black men - I thought it was absolutely admirable. I’m prepared to do anything it takes and whatever steps I can to support him if this insanity continues.”

On social media, Kaepernick wrote that he was “honoured” to be recognised by GQ - but not everyone was happy with the magazine’s decision.

Ex-ESPN reporter Britt McHenry tweeted: “Wear socks depicting police officers as pigs; wear Fidel Castro as a fashion statement IN MIAMI; sue NFL for collusion when gf compares owners to slave owners… Win Citizen of the Year. Serve in the US military… nothing. What a joke, GQ. #Kaepernick.”

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