When NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to kneel rather than stand during the playing of the national anthem before a football game, he was severely criticized by some and lauded by others.
As expected, the racists and Republicans (including their leader Donald Trump) said that kneeling was unpatriotic and terrible.
President Barack Obama said Kaepernick was exercising his “constitutional right: by not standing during the national anthem and he was fully supportive.
Last year, Sports Illustrated honored Kaepernick with the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award. Lonnie Ali, Muhammad’s widow, highlighted his “passionate defense of social justice and civil rights for all people,” in presenting the award.
And last Saturday Kaepernick was presented the highest award given by international human rights group Amnesty International. At a ceremony in the Netherlands the former football player received AI’s Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2018, which is an amazing achievement for an athlete.
“The Ambassador of Conscience award celebrates the spirit of activism and exceptional courage, as embodied by Colin Kaepernick. He is an athlete who is now widely recognized for his activism because of his refusal to ignore or accept racial discrimination,” said Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International.
Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem before NFL games to protest racial injustice and police violence against African-Americans. He quickly became a media figure and his actions were widely discussed during the 2016 presidential campaign.
His actions inspired many other football players to join him in kneeling before games, but they also triggered a backlash. Donald Trump had this to say: “I watched Colin Kaepernick, and I thought it was terrible, and then it got bigger and bigger and started mushrooming, and frankly the NFL should have suspended him for one game, and he would have never done it again.”
In accepting the Ambassador of Conscience Award, Kaepernick said, “This is an award that I share with all of the countless people throughout the world combating the human rights violations of police officers, and their uses of oppressive and excessive force. To quote Malcolm X, when he said that he, ‘will join in with anyone — I don’t care what color you are — as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth,’ I am here to join with you all in this battle against police violence.”
Since Donald Trump has gone on to become the worst president in U.S. history, guilty of many high crimes, including treason, Colin Kaepernick’s example of protesting against racial injustice despite intense criticism from Republicans shines even brighter. In a world darkened by racism and oppression, Kaepernick’s inspirational actions have served as a beacon of hope to millions, and he is well deserving of the award.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.