The 30-year-old NFL free agent first made headlines in 2016, after kneeling during a preseason football game during the national anthem. The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback was protesting racial inequality and police brutality in the U.S.
On Monday, GQ revealed Kaepernick as 2017’s first “Man of the Year.”
“Colin Kaepernick will not be silenced,” the magazine wrote on their Instagram page. “He’s been vilified by millions and locked out of the NFL — all because he took a knee to protest police brutality. But Kaepernick’s determined stand puts him in rare company in sports history: Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson — athletes who risked everything to make a difference.”
Kaepernick’s actions sparked an ongoing wave of protests by both players in the NFL and other sports leagues, as well as everyday citizens across the U.S. His protests during the anthem have also repeatedly been denounced by U.S. President Donald Trump.
Kaepernick parted ways with the 49ers in March and hasn’t been signed by another team.
Following the announcement of winning “Citizen of the Year,” Kaepernick went on Twitter and said he was “honoured.”
Many fans of the football player congratulated Kaepernick on social media.
The magazine cover story includes comments from several of Kaepernick’s supporters and confidants.
Rapper J. Cole says Kaepernick “sacrificed his dream” to stand for something. Ninety-year-old singer and activist Harry Belafonte says seeing people like Kaepernick taking action is “the greatest reward” he could ask for.
“After all the courageous things that have been done by so many courageous people, it’s a cop-out to not speak up,” Belafonte told GQ. “Trump has betrayed our nation. Taking a shot at him is worthy of all of us. Not being ‘political’ is not a solution.”
Other cover stars of GQ’s men and woman of the year include Stephen Colbert, Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot and NBA star Kevin Durant.
— With files from the Associated Press