Colin Kaepernick is GQ’s 'Citizen of the Year' and Here’s Why That Matters

Your guide to the NFL protests, what’s working what’s not and what you can do about it.

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Nov 13 2017, 8:30pm

Illustration via Aaron Barksdale.

Colin Kaepernick was named citizen of the year by GQ Magazine, which is huge given the ongoing controversy surrounding NFL protests and recent weigh-in from the president of the United States. On the cover, Kaepernick is styled like a member of the ‘70s Black Panthers, a revolutionary group of men and women who fought for black liberation and equality, with his hair in an afro and the look topped off with a gold chain. On the inside of the magazine, GQ editors have statements from 10 activists and prominent voices— including Harry Belafonte, the creators of the Women’s March and Ava DuVernay— about the impact that Colin Kaepernick has had in advocating for racial equality and fighting against a broken criminal justice system.

In 2016, the former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers started a political movement by kneeling during the national anthem to call attention to the injustices experienced by many people of color in America. Kaepernick was dropped by the team at the start of the 2017 season, and has yet to be signed by another team, which many of his supporters feel is an act of retaliation by the league to silence his political activism. But athletes across the NFL, college campuses, high schools and even internationally have joined Kaepernick’s cause by taking a knee during the anthem.

The protests continue to vex President Trump who has been an outspoken critic of the kneelers. He’s called on the team owners to fire protesting players, and sent Vice President Mike Pence to a game only to have him leave after players knelt as the anthem played. Also, John Schnatter, CEO and co-Founder of NFL sponsor Papa John’s Pizza, expressed disappointment over the league’s handling of the protesting saying they should have “nipped it in the bud” a year and a half ago.

People on both sides, pro-kneelers and anti-kneelers, have called for boycotts of the NFL, but the players are not letting the pressure deter from critics or elected officials stop them from making a statement. Supporters are continuing to rally on behalf of the players who are exercising their first amendment rights.

What you can do:

Racial Justice organization Color of Change has declared November as Athletes and Activism month. For the next 30 days, they’re encouraging athletes, from professional players to high school students, to speak out against injustice.

Color of Change is collecting signatures for the NFL to create a player’s platform that will protect their right to protest and advocates for criminal justice reform.

They were recently featured on a VICE Impact live stream talking about their work here.

And then some:

Much of the criticism against kneeling is that it’s disrespectful to veterans and active troops— though the participating players have made it clear that their intention is to bring awareness to racial inequality. However, on Veterans Day this past weekend, Colin Kaepernick shared via Twitter that he donated to Black Vets for Social Justice.

This just one example that patriotism and protest are not mutually exclusive acts.