As much as the National Football League was hoping the off-season would help its efforts to make fans forget about the kneeling during the national anthem protests, it’s still alive and kicking.
On Saturday, Amnesty International gave former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick its Ambassador of Conscience Award for his role in leading the national anthem protests. The ceremony took place in Amsterdam.
Kaepernick has been unable to find a job in the NFL since leaving the 49ers as a free agent, even while quarterbacks perceived as lesser talents have been signed.
Several players have stood up for his value and blamed his politics, rather than a lack of talent, for his prolonged absence from the league. Kaepernick was believed to be close to signing with the Baltimore Ravens last summer, and there were rumblings about the Seattle Seahawks kicking the tires. But so far, he remains unemployed.
In November 2017, Kaepernick filed a grievance against the NFL, alleging that NFL owners have colluded to keep him out of the league.
Kaepernick’s awards presenter on Saturday was Eric Reid, the ex-49ers defensive back who is also having a hard time finding work after becoming a free agent. Reid was one of the highest-profile kneelers during the national anthem last year.
The acceptance speech by Kaepernick ramped up the rhetoric. “Racialized oppression and dehumanization is woven into the very fabric of our nation – the effects of which can be seen in the lawful lynching of black and brown people by the police, and the mass incarceration of black and brown lives in the prison industrial complex,” Kaepernick said.
“How can you stand for the national anthem of a nation that preaches and propagates, ‘freedom and justice for all,’ that is so unjust to so many of the people living there?” he said at Saturday’s award ceremony.
The Amnesty International awrad is given each year to a person or organization dedicated to fighting injustice and using their talents to inspire others. Previous recipients include Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who campaigned for girls’ right to education.
The NFL has pledged to donate $100 million over the next five years to social justice causes. It is also reportedly debating whether to mandate leaving teams in the locker room for the national anthem during the 2018 season.