Each year, Amnesty International awards one person as the Ambassador of Conscience. This year, the human rights organization chose former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick started off and on for the next three seasons with the 49ers. At the end of the 2016 season he became a free agent.
Colin Kaepernick is the player who ignited the protests during the 2016 season. He was the first player to kneel during the singing of the National Anthem before a game. Kaepernick says he did this as a protest against racial injustice.
In the wake of a slew of killings of unarmed black men by police, Kaepernick decided to use his status as an NFL quarterback to make a statement. Kneeling during the National Anthem symbolized the idea that not everyone in America is given the same freedom.
Other Players Follow Suit
Other players around the NFL, both black and white, also decided to start kneeling during the National Anthem. As the protests grew throughout the season, more and more attention was brought to issue of police violence against the black community.
Responses to the Protests
There were mixed responses to the protests. Some people supported Kaepernick and his fellow players for standing up for an important cause. Others thought that it was inappropriate to use a football game to make a political statement.
President Trump famously said that Kaepernick and other players who kneeled should be fired.
Fallout for Kaepernick
Kaepernick brought voice to a difficult issue in our country but it was not without personal consequences. After becoming a free agent in 2016 he was not picked up by any team in the NFL for the 2017 season. Although he filed a grievance against the NFL, he remains a free agent today.
The Award from Amnesty International
In winning the Ambassador of Conscience award, Kaepernick is in good company. He joins the ranks of U2 and Nelson Mandela.
The award is given to people who speak out about social justice and bring light to social issues in order for them to be discussed on a national or international scale. In taking a knee, Kaepernick did just that.
Kaepernick’s Speech at the Award Ceremony
Kaepernick gave impassioned remarks as he accepted his award from the rights group. He talked of the hypocrisy of American politicians preaching freedom and justice for all while denying their citizens just that on the basis of race. He mentioned the fear that people of color have of being killed or imprisoned on a daily basis. Seeing him speak, he is clearly still passionate about this issue and is not finished with his protest.
After his speech, Kaepernick’s former teammate, Eric Reid, also said a few words. Reid explained Kaepernick’s protest not as anti-American or unpatriotic but as an attempt to hold America to its highest ideal, that all people are created equal.
Kaepernick Continues His Fight
The former quarterback has yet to win back a starting position, or any position for that matter, on an NFL roster. Many believe this is because of his high profile protests. It’s hard to argue that this is not the reason he hasn’t been signed.
But just because Kaepernick isn’t on the field doesn’t mean he isn’t working. Along with his foundation that helps underprivileged communities, he along does community outreach with kids to help them stand up for their rights as citizens. It’s hard to know if we will see Kaepernick back in a football jersey but it is clear that he will not be leaving the public eye any time soon.
The Legacy of Kaepernick’s Protest
As with protests all over the world for any number of causes, it’s hard to know the true affect, if any, of what Kaepernick did. But from the response it got from fans, the NFL, and the government, I think we can be sure that he stirred up something big.
The policing system in America is not going to change overnight. But any pressure to moves towards a more fair and just system for all is a good thing. It’s important to know that not only do professional athletes care about this cause but ordinary Americans do to. Kaepernick was criticized for his actions but he also received a lot of support.