He may never hoist the Lombardi Trophy, but Colin Kaepernick has amassed no shortage of awards from left-leaning groups, most recently the National Education Association.
The nation’s largest teachers’ union honored Kaepernick with the Presidents Award, described as the “NEA’s highest honor,” at its Human and Civil Rights Awards ceremony Sunday in Minneapolis.
The NEA cited his refusal to stand for the national anthem during the 2016 NFL season and the work of his eponymous foundation, which runs “Know Your Rights” youth camps and has donated $1 million to social-justice groups.
“When Kaepernick sat during the national anthem at a San Francisco 49ers pre-season football game in 2016, he made a profound non-violent statement about the treatment of black people in this country,” said the NEA in a statement.
“First he took a seat, and then a knee, to advance an anti-racism, pro-social justice movement,” the statement said. “With his example, the #TakeAKnee campaign spread throughout the National Football League and forced an ongoing, national conversation about the treatment of black Americans by law enforcement.”
Kaepernick has filled his trophy case with awards over the last year even though he has not played a game since the 2016 NFL regular season.
In April, Amnesty International gave Kaepernick its Ambassador of Conscience Award, its most prestigious human-rights honor, whose past winners include Nelson Mandela and Vaclav Havel.
The free-agent quarterback was also named GQ magazine’s Citizen of the Year and received Sports Illustrated’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award at the end of 2017.
There have even been calls for the quarterback cum activist to receive consideration for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, which is slated to be awarded in October.
Kaepernick was one of 12 “social justice heroes” to be honored as part of the NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards program.
“The work of educators is at the heart of what we do at the Know Your Rights Camp,” said Kaepernick in a statement. “It was [Paulo] Freire that said, ‘One cannot expect positive results from an educational or political action program which fails to respect the particular view of the world held by the people,’ and our goal at the camp is to be a part of the youth’s educational and political growth, while providing them with a loving environment to thrive in, which is something that we all deserve.”
Among the others honored were former First Lady Michelle Obama; Equality North Carolina executive director Chris Sgro and Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Kaepernick has remained unsigned since opting out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers in March 2017. He has since filed a grievance with the NFL, alleging collusion by franchise owners.
Even though Kaepernick did not play during the 2017 season, other players continued to kneel, fueling a showdown with President Trump as NFL television ratings declined from the previous regular season by 9.7 percent.
In May, the league revised its national anthem policy, saying that players onfield must “stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem” or remain in the locker room during the game-day ceremony.