Colin Kaepernick was an unexpected honoree at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California’s “Bill of Rights Dinner” on Sunday night in Beverly Hills.
Kaepernick received the ACLU’s Eason Monroe Courageous Advocate Award for his protests of racial injustice and police brutality, most notably during the national anthem before NFL games.
“Our next honoree took a stand,” Hector Villagra, the ACLU of Southern California’s executive director, told the assembled crowd at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel as he introduced Kaepernick. “He took a stand knowing he would risk his job. And he has lost his job, one that he loved and was supremely talented and skilled at.
“He took a stand knowing that some would criticize him, and he has been viciously and unfairly criticized. He has been called a traitor, because too many people in this country confuse dissent for disloyalty. He took a stand knowing some would even threaten him, and he has had his life threatened, which is why, though we are profoundly honored to have him here, we didn’t publicize his presence tonight.”
Kaepernick thanked the ACLU for its “unrelenting” work fighting for social justice, then briefly addressed the ballroom.
“We must confront systemic oppression as a doctor would a disease,” he said. “You identify it, you call it out, you treat it, and you defeat it,” Kaepernick said during brief remarks. “We all have an obligation no matter the risk, and regardless of reward, to stand up for our fellow men and women who are being oppressed, with an understanding that human rights cannot be compromised.
“In the words of Frederick Douglass: ‘If there is no struggle, there is no progress.’”
Kaepernick’s protests sparked a movement throughout the NFL and in other professional sports leagues. They also sparked widespread controversy and debate that extended to politics.
The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback has not played in the NFL since last season. In October, he filed a grievance against the NFL alleging collusion by owners as the reason he remained unsigned.
Kaepernick was also recently named GQ’s Citizen of the Year.