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Colin Kaepernick wins ‘Sports Illustrated’s’ Muhammad Ali Legacy Award

Quarterback honored ‘for his steadfastness in the fight for social justice, for his adherence to his beliefs no matter the cost’

Free-agent NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has missed the entire 2017 season after kneeling during the national anthem last year, was awarded Sports Illustrated magazine’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award on Thursday.

The sports publication announced that Kaepernick was awarded the honor “for his steadfastness in the fight for social justice, for his adherence to his beliefs no matter the cost” and for, like the award’s namesake, embodying “the ideals of sportsmanship, leadership and philanthropy.” Like Ali, who famously refused induction into the Army during the Vietnam War, risking imprisonment and costing him his boxing license for three years, Kaepernick has risked his career and livelihood for a cause he believes in.

The 30-year-old has been out of the NFL since opting out his contract with the San Francisco 49ers in March, allegedly a victim of blackballing by the league and team owners for kneeling or sitting during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” for every game last season, Kaepernick’s form of protest against racial inequality and police brutality.

Since his initial demonstrations in August 2016, the quarterback has influenced athletes, cheerleaders, musicians and actors to join in on bringing attention to issues that affect people of color, and Kaepernick has donated $1 million of his own money to organizations and charities that promote social change.

Since last season, Kaepernick has appeared on the cover of Time magazine (which is owned by the same company as Sports Illustrated), and has won the 49ers’ Len Eshmont Award for inspiration and courage, the NFL Players Association’s Community MVP Award, GQ magazine’s Citizen of the Year, and the Ali honor.

Former winners of the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, which was started in 2008 and renamed after the late professional boxer in 2016, include Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown, Jack Nicklaus and Magic Johnson.

“I am proud to be able to present this to Colin for his passionate defense of social justice and civil rights for all people,” Muhammad Ali’s widow, Lonnie Ali, told Sports Illustrated. “Like Muhammad, Colin is a man who stands on his convictions with confidence and courage, undaunted by the personal sacrifices he has had to make to have his message heard. And he has used his celebrity and philanthropy to the benefit of some of our most vulnerable community members.”

Kaepernick will be presented the award at Sports Illustrated‘s Sportsperson of the Year ceremony on Dec. 8.

Martenzie Johnson is a senior writer for Andscape. His favorite cinematic moment is when Django said, "Y'all want to see somethin?"