The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback was honored with the award for using his sports platform to protest racial injustice and police brutality, sparking a nationwide take-a-knee movement in the process. Despite an impressive career, Kaepernick remains unsigned by an NFL team more than a year after he began to kneel during the national anthem before games.
“Colin took action with no fear of consequence or repercussion, only hope to change the world for the better; to change perception; to change the way we treat each other, especially people of color,” Beyoncé said as she thanked Kaepernick for his selflessness and conviction. “We’re still waiting for the world to catch up.”
Beyoncé also addressed the misguided criticism, exacerbated by President Donald Trump, that sports players kneeling during the national anthem was a sign of disrespect to the American flag and the military.
“It’s been said that racism is so American that when we protest racism, some assume we’re protesting America. So let’s be very clear,” she said. “Colin has always been very respectful of the individuals who selflessly serve and protect our country and our communities and our families. His message is solely focused on social injustice for historically disenfranchised people. Let’s not get that mistaken.”
The Ali Award honors those who embody the ideals of sportsmanship, leadership and philanthropy as vehicles for changing the world, Beyoncé said.
Kaepernick accepted the award on behalf of others.
“With or without the NFL’s platform, I will continue to work for the people because my platform is the people,” he said.
Kaepernick began sitting or kneeling during the national anthem at the beginning of the 2016 football season. After Trump called football players who kneel during the national anthem “sons of bitches” earlier this year, entire team rosters began kneeling or linking arms in a show of solidarity.
In October, Kaepernick filed a grievance against the NFL, arguing that team owners were colluding to prevent him from playing.
The award show will air on NBC Sports Network at 8 p.m. EST Saturday.