Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL star turned social and political activist, will be honored at Harvard University next month, U.S. media reported Thursday. Kaepernick, who has been surrounded by various controversies in the recent past, will receive the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal at the Hutchins Center Honors ceremony in Cambridge on Oct. 11. It’s described as “Harvard’s highest honor in the field of African and African American studies.”
Harvard said, “The medal honors those who have made significant contributions to African and African American history and culture, and more broadly, individuals who advocate for intercultural understanding and human rights in an increasingly global and interconnected world.”
He was featured in a Nike campaign in early September which attracted many debates and discussions. The campaign with the tagline, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything,” which features athletes at the top of their game who overcame incredible odds to get there.
The advertisement witnessed criticism for featuring Kaepernick who started kneeling during the national anthem at the start of NFL games back in 2016 to protest police brutality against blacks. It was during that same time, the player was sidelined from games which led him to accuse the league of conspiring to keep him from playing.
“I thought it was wrong,” said Mike Cocco of New Jersey while commenting on the Nike advertisement. “I thought there was a lot of other things that Nike could have done to promote awareness for certain things. I’ve coached sports myself and I wouldn’t allow someone to kneel or sit.”
Many have disagreed with the sentiment Cocco expressed as they thought Kaepernick was protesting against injustice and it is well within his rights to do so.
“I don’t always agree with people’s behavior but I think in this country, if we start chipping away at people’s freedoms because we don’t like them and as being a person of color I understand that, people have a right to be free to speak,” said Boston police officer Larry Ellison in early September.
In a more recent case, a Marshall County constable, and Mississippi sheriff shared a photo on his Facebook comparing Kaepernick to Osama Bin Laden, the co-founder of the terrorist extremist group al-Qaeda.
An edited photo which put Bin Laden and Kaepernick next to each other, captioned, “If Bin Laden had a son” was posted by Don Cothern. The Facebook post drew criticism and condemnation for comparing Kaepernick with bin Laden.
Cothern responded to the criticisms Wednesday writing a lengthy post on his Facebook defending himself from allegations of racism.
"Well, as I'm sitting in the ER, I see that I made the Channel 3 news, for a Facebook post that I re-shared, well over a week ago, last time I checked, we in America had freedom of speech," he wrote.
"I am a TRUE American and I firmly believe that you should stand for our National Anthem, not kneel, so if I offended anyone, I'm sorry. But I also know this is a Political move, since our county election is right around the corner. Yes, I am still the Constable and I am very thankful that the Lord has blessed me to continue to serve, while also doing dialysis for the last 5 years. People that know me, know that there is not a racist bone in my body."
Despite all controversies, Harvard has recognized his activism for the African-American community and decided to honor him. They also commended his US$1 million donations to charities serving oppressed communities.