Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick received Sports Illustrated’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award from Beyonce on Tuesday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and vowed to continue fighting racial injustice in United States whether he returns to the NFL or not.
“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,” Kaepernick said at SI’s 2017 Sportsperson of the Year ceremony (via Sports Illustrated).
“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 our without the NFL’s platform, I will continue to work for the people because my platform is the people.”
Beyonce made a distinction about the message Kaepernick hoped to send when he began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016: It was to draw attention to the work that remains to be done in America in terms of race relations, not to protest against those who serve selflessly to defend the nation.
Kaepernick’s protests sparked a social firestorm last NFL season that carried over into this season, especially as President Donald Trump criticized players who continued the protests as the former Niners QB remained a free agent, despite having a better resume than many quarterbacks on NFL rosters.
Kaepernick received the Ali Award on the same night Houston athletes J.J. Watt and Jose Altuve were honored as co-recipients of SI’s 2017 Sportsperson of the Year award for their impacts both on the field and in aiding Houston’s Hurricane Harvey recovery.
Other honorees Tuesday: Carlos Beltran received the Hope Award for his work to help his native Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. WNBA star Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx was named the Performer of the Year, and 76ers youngster Joel Embiid was given the Rising Star award.
The night’s ceremonies — including Kaepernick’s full speech — will be televised at 8 p.m. ET Friday on NBC Sports Network and at 8 p.m. Saturday on Univision Deportes.