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Beyoncé Honored Colin Kaepernick With the Muhammad Ali Award

One could argue that this year’s football season has been most impacted by a man who hasn’t seen a single minute of playing time. In fact, Colin Kaepernick hasn’t been on an NFL roster since March of 2016.

Nevertheless, the former 49er’s quarterback has sparked a reexamination of sports and politics in America.

At Tuesday night’s Sports Illustrated “Sportsperson of the Year” awards in New York, Kaepernick was honored for his commitment to social justice. And in an unexpected twist, none other than singer and co-founder of CHIME FOR CHANGE, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, presented him with the 2017 Muhammad Ali Legacy Award.

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Named after one of the most iconic  athlete activists, the Ali Legacy Award is presented each year to an athlete who “embodies the ideals of sportsmanship, leadership and philanthropy and has used sports as a platform for changing the world.”

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Kaepernick certainly fits that description. With his decision to kneel during the national anthem during a preseason game in 2016, he sparked a nationwide movement to bring attention to the oppression of people of color across the US. His actions came in the wake of the several high-profile shootings of unarmed black men and boys by police, including Tamir Rice and Michael Brown.

A year later, his #TakeAKnee movement has spread beyond football, transcending sports, as politicians, artists, and other public figures have offered solidarity with Kaepernick. Though Kaepernick’s critics were often louder than his supporters, his continued dedication to the cause of racial equality has undoubtedly been a major driver in the conversation about race in America.

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After he was released by the 49ers in March of 2016, Kaepernick did not relent in his pursuit of advocacy towards on social justice. The quarterback pledged to donate $1 million to organizations serving oppressed communities, and has been engaging in a steady stream of conversations with some of the nation’s most noted thinkers on race, including activist DeRay McKesson. Kaepernick also funds and operates the Know Your Rights Camp, a campaign designed to raise awareness about education, legal rights, and self-empowerment for children of color.

Global Citizen campaigns on the United Nation’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Kaepernick’s dedication to ending racial inequalities is in line with our mission to support global goal number ten of reduced inequalities all over the world. You can take action on this issue here.

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On Tuesday night, Beyoncé was clearly proud to be handing Kaepernick his award. She spoke of his conviction, dedication, and respect — taking time to clarify the issues at the heart of his work.

“Colin has always been very respectful of the individuals who selflessly serve and protect our country and our communities and our families,” she said. “His message is solely focused on social injustice for historically disenfranchised people. Let's not get that mistaken.”

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For his part, Kaepernick was quick to deflect praise away from himself, choosing instead to give credit for his work to the people who inspired him to act.

“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,” Kaepernick said. “With or without the NFL's platform, I will continue to work for the people because my platform is the people."