Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the surprise honoree at the ACLU of Southern California’s annual awards dinner Sunday night, accepting the Eason Monroe Courageous Advocate Award for his kneeling protests against the national anthem that sparked a movement across the NFL.
Mr. Kaepernick’s appearance, which was not announced prior to the event at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, was met with a standing ovation.
“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 the understanding that human rights cannot be compromised,” Mr. Kaepernick told the crowd, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Mr. Kaepernick remains a free agent since he started a widespread movement of kneeling during the national anthem to highlight racial injustice in America. President Trump has repeatedly criticized Mr. Kaepernick and fellow athletes who joined in the protest, as well as NFL owners for failing to take action against the protesting athletes. In October, Mr. Kaepernick filed a grievance against the NFL, accusing the owners of colluding not to hire him.
Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, said Sunday that Mr. Kaepernick risked his job and reputation in order to stand for his beliefs.
“He took a stand knowing that some would criticize him, and he has been viciously and unfairly criticized,” Mr. Villagra, the Times reported. “He has been called a traitor because too many people in this country confuse dissent for disloyalty.”
Mr. Kaepernick, who was recently named GQ’s Citizen of the Year, is also expected to receive the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award at the publication’s annual awards show Tuesday in New York.
Other honorees at the ACLU event included Jane Fonda, Gina Rodriguez, Viola Davis and Judd Apatow.