Colin Kaepernick is not currently in the NFL, but that didn’t stop the NFL Players’ Association from naming the 29-year-old its Week 1 MVP.
The award, which is open to current NFL players and free agents actively seeking to return to the league, went to the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback “for his commitment to empowering underserved communities through donations and grassroots outreach.”
The NFLPA found particularly impressive Kaepernick’s continued donations to charity, including a Sept. 7 gift of $100,000 split between four organizations.
Kaepernick, who some say hasn’t been signed by an NFL team due to his political activism, gave $25,000 each to DREAM, a New York City after-school program that promotes sports in urban neighborhoods; the Gathering for Justice’s War on Children, a forthcoming initiative to tackle child incarceration; United We Dream, an organization focused on empowering immigrant youth; and the Coalition for the Homeless.
“Kaepernick followed this up three days later with a Back to School Backpack Giveaway at the Lower Eastside Girls Club of New York, which connects girls and young women to entrepreneurship opportunities, healthy meals and STEM workshops,” NFLPA said in a statement.
Kaepernick began making headlines for non-football reasons during the 2016 preseason when he sat or knelt during the pregame rendition of the national anthem.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick 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.”
His protests quickly became national news, as fans, politicians and the general public took sides. Those who support Kaepernick understood his cause; those who criticized him accused him of disrespecting the country, as well as the men and women in the Armed Services.
Throughout it all, however, Kaepernick used his higher profile to not only continue to bring awareness to racial injustices in the United States, but actively fight for it. Kaepernick started a campaign called the “Know Your Rights Camp,” which holds free workshops for kids to educate them about proper ways to interact with police. He also began donating monetarily to various other charities.
His goal, as set forth last year, was to donate a total of $1 million to organizations that help minorities and other oppressed communities. Earlier this month, Kaepernick said he had so far donated $900,000.
“I’ve been very blessed to be in this position and make the kind of money I do, and I have to help these people,” Kaepernick said after laying out his goal last year. “I have to help these communities. It’s not right that they’re not put in the position to succeed, or given the opportunities to succeed.”
For winning the “Community MVP” award from the NFLPA, Kaepernick will receive a $10,000 donation on behalf of the group to a charity of Kaepernick’s choice.
Kaepernick has not publicly commented on the news.