At first, the NFL’s televised games and locker room media scrums gave Colin Kaepernick an audience for his protests against police brutality and racial injustice. In the time since, as Kaepernick’s story has merged into the mainstream, it has become increasingly obvious that he does not need to suit up again to keep sustain his message.
Tuesday night in Brooklyn, Beyoncé presented Kaepernick with Sports Illustrated‘s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, and the quarterback made clear his protest is bigger than the league.
“With or without the NFL’s platform, I will continue to work for the people because my platform is the people,” Kaepernick said after accepting the award.
At a concert in September, Beyonce’s husband Jay-Z dedicated his song “The Story of O.J.” to Kaepernick. Tuesday night, Beyoncé continued to applaud the 30-year-old for taking a selfless stand.
“Thank you, Colin Kaepernick, thank you for your selfless heart and your conviction, thank you for your personal sacrifice,” Beyoncé said. “Colin took action with no fear of consequence or repercussion, only hope to change the world for the better. To change perception, to change the way we treat each other, especially people of color. We’re still waiting for the world to catch up.”
J.J. Watt and Jose Altuve were also honored at the event as joint recipients of Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year award for their efforts on the field and in aiding Houston’s recovery from Hurricane Harvey. Earlier this week, the magazine announced that Kaepernick was receiving the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award award due to his “steadfastness in the fight for social justice, for his adherence to his beliefs no matter the cost.”
“I say this as a person who receives credit for using my platform to protest systemic oppression, racialized injustice and the dire consequences of anti-blackness in America,” Kaepernick said. “I accept this award not for myself, but on behalf of the people. Because if it were not for my love of the people, I would not have protested. And if it was not for the support from the people, I would not be on this stage today.”
Away from football, Kaepernick has remained squarely in the national spotlight. President Trump has repeatedly tweeted his disapproval of protests during the national anthem and called for the suspension of players who take a knee during the anthem. In October, Vice President Pence flew to Indianapolis for a game between the Colts and the 49ers and, in what many saw as a premeditated protest, left the stadium when he saw players kneeling.
While his protest movement has become national news, Kaepernick has given limited public appearances and interviews. On Friday night at 8 p.m., NBC Sports Network will air Kaepernick’s speech in full.