Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who sparked a league-wide protest that has spanned two seasons since he first kneeled down before a game to protest racial violence and police killings in 2016, was awarded Amnesty International's highest honor on Saturday.
"While taking a knee is a physical display that challenges the merits of who is excluded from the notion of freedom, liberty, and justice for all, the protest is also rooted in a convergence of my moralistic beliefs, and my love for the people." —Colin KaepernickPresented at a ceremony in Amsterdam, Netherlands on Saturday, the secretary general of the human rights group Salil Shetty said Kaepernick earned its Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2018 for his "refusal to ignore or accept racial discrimination."
"Just like the Ambassadors of Conscience before him," Shetty added, "Colin Kaepernick chooses to speak out and inspire others despite the professional and personal risks. When high profile people choose to take a stand for human rights, it emboldens many others in their struggles against injustice. Kaepernick’s commitment is all the more remarkable because of the alarming levels of vitriol it has attracted from those in power."
As Amnesty recounted in a statement:
During the 2016 pre-season of the National Football League, Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem, as a respectful way of calling for the country to protect and uphold the rights of all its people. The bold move was a response to the disproportionate numbers of black people being killed by police. It sparked a movement that follows a long tradition of non-violent protests that have made history.
While the polarized response to the “take-a-knee” protest has ignited a debate about the right to protest and free speech, Kaepernick has remained focused on highlighting the injustices that moved him to act. His charity, the Colin Kaepernick Foundation, works to fight oppression around the world through education and social activism, including through free “Know Your Rights” camps which educate and empower young people.
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On social media, Kaepernick was lauded for his activism:
— Amnesty Centre for International Justice (@AmnestyCIJ) April 21, 2018
Athlete and activist Colin Kaepernick took a knee, refusing to ignore or accept racial discrimination. Through his activism, he continues to inspire many others in their fight for human rights. Today, with great honour, we present him with our Ambassador of #Conscience Award! pic.twitter.com/HlRzmJOnHf
— Salil Shetty (@SalilShetty) April 21, 2018
Accepting the award in Amsterdam, Kaepernick stated, "I would like to thank Amnesty International for the Ambassador of Conscience Award. But in truth, this is an award that I share with all of the countless people throughout the world combating the human rights violations of police officers, and their uses of oppressive and excessive force. To quote Malcolm X, when he said that he, 'will join in with anyone — I don't care what color you are — as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth,'I am here to join with you all in this battle against police violence."
He added, "While taking a knee is a physical display that challenges the merits of who is excluded from the notion of freedom, liberty, and justice for all, the protest is also rooted in a convergence of my moralistic beliefs, and my love for the people."