At the rate in which Colin Kaepernick is accepting social justice awards, he might soon have to hire a social justice award speechwriter. Though, while it’s become a matter of routine to see America’s most famous jock-protester on the stage accepting an award, on Tuesday night he had to share the stage with someone a lot more famous than him.
Beyonce made a surprise appearance to honor Kaepernick as he accepted the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award during the 2017 Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year Awards ceremony.
Suspense was built for the R&B superstar’s appearance, as the Daily Show’s Trevor Noah began referencing a mystery guest as “a friend who admired Colin Kaepernick so much she asked me to sneak her in.”
Beyonce then took the stage and heaped accolades upon the anthem-protesting quarterback.
“Thank you, Colin Kaepernick,” Beyonce said. “Thank you for your selfless heart. And your conviction. Thank you for your personal sacrifice. Colin took action with no fear of consequences or repercussions, only hope to change the world for the better.”
Kaepernick said of the award presentation, “I don’t know I could’ve asked for a better introduction:”
Beyonce makes a surprise appearance to present Colin Kaepernick with the Muhammed Ali Legacy Award pic.twitter.com/oQzPXFJ0cg
— Luke Kerr-Dineen (@LukeKerrDineen) December 6, 2017
However, rather than simply thanking SI for giving him the award, Kaepernick’s acceptance speech consisted of a doubling-down on his social justice activism.
“I am using my platform to protest systematic oppression, racial injustice, and the dire consequences of anti-blackness in America.” Kaepernick explained. “America is not living up to what America professes to be.
“I accept this award not for myself, but on behalf of the people. With or without the NFL’s platform, I will continue to work for the people.”
The Muhammad Ali Award, a social justice award renamed for the legendary fighter in 2015, is given to a sports figure who uses their sports platform to influence change over the course of decades.
The “over the course of decades,” would seem to be the operative portion of that award description. Kaepernick only began his protest movement in the preseason of 2016, and is only 29 years old. Given the relative infancy of his social justice activism, coupled with the fact has barely lived for “decades,” how is it that he could become eligible for this award?
Sports Illustrated Executive Editor Steve Canella explains, “The Muhammad Ali Legacy Award is given to those who make the world a better place. The fact Colin hasn’t played this year or been on the field doesn’t disqualify him. That fact that he hasn’t played in a game actually shows what he has sacrificed for standing up for what he believes. There will never be another Muhammad Ali, but you can see the echoes of (Ali) in what Colin has done over the last 12 to 15 months.”
Of course, one major difference between Ali and Kaepernick, is that Ali didn’t protest the Vietnam War from inside the boxing ring. Ali used his notoriety as a sports star to speak on issues of race, and the war, but he didn’t use actual sporting events to do that.
Kaepernick, obviously went another route.
One could also fairly wonder why Sports Illustrated, an alleged sports magazine, would have a social justice award in the first place? After all, when was the last time a social justice organization gave out an award for defensive player of the year? Or, for most passing yards in a single season?
Viewed in that way, having an award that glorifies an athlete or sports figure for using their sports celebrity to advance social change, doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. However, given that the activists who fill the ranks of the mainstream sports media care far more about leftist political activism than they do sports, the award makes perfect sense. Giving the media a chance to recognize, reward, and encourage athletes to turn themselves into political activists.
Beyonce, like Kaepernick, also once used the NFL as a platform for leftist political activism. In February of 2016, Beyonce performed her song, “Formation,” an homage to the Black Lives Matter movement, during the Super Bowl halftime show.
According to USA Today, “Former winners of the award include: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Jack Nicklaus and Jim Brown.
“The show airs Friday (NBC Sports Network,8 p.m. ET.)”