Sports Illustrated has announced Colin Kaepernick as the recipient of the 2017 Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award for his "steadfastness in the fight for social justice, for his adherence to his beliefs no matter the cost."
"I am proud to be able to present this to Colin for his passionate defense of social justice and civil rights for all people," Muhammad’s widow, Lonnie Ali, told the magazine.
"Like Muhammad, Colin is a man who stands on his convictions with confidence and courage, undaunted by the personal sacrifices he has had to make to have his message heard. And he has used his celebrity and philanthropy to the benefit of some of our most vulnerable community members."
Kaepernick, the 29-year-old former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, garnered national headlines for kneeling during the U.S. national anthem during the 2016 season and has become known for his stance against racial injustice, which caused setbacks in his career.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," he said at the time. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street, and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
In June, after Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted in the fatal shooting of Philando Castile, Kaepernick compared the U.S. police to slave patrols. The patrols were assigned by rich white landlords to enforce discipline over Black slaves in the antebellum southern states.
"A system that perpetually condones the killing of people, without consequence, doesn't need to be revised, it needs to be dismantled!" Kaepernick wrote on Twitter in response to the Yanez verdict.
In October, Kaepernick sued the owners of the NFL after he was "blackballed," as pro-basketball player Lebron James called it. Kaepernick was later named GQ's 'Citizen of the Year' after he donated US$900,000 to nonprofit organizations working for the underprivileged and minority communities.
In winning the honor, Kaepernick has joined the ranks of the NBA's Bill Russell, who won 11 championships; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA's highest-scoring player; retired NFL Player Jim Brown, and Earvin "Magic" Johnson Jr., president of basketball operations with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who died in 2016, was known for his stance against the Vietnam War in the 1970s. "I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years," he said at the time.
"Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?
"No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over."