Sports Illustrated has just named Colin Kaepernick the 2017 Muhammad Ali Legacy Award recipient for his tireless activist work.
The magazine announced its decision Thursday with Lonnie Ali, Muhammad Ali’s widow, who consults with SI to choose the recipient each year.
“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,” Ali said in a statement. “He has used his celebrity and philanthropy to benefit some of our most vulnerable community members. I know the Ali family joins me in congratulating Colin as he receives the 2017 SI Muhammad Ali Legacy Award.”
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown and Bill Russell were the 2017 co-recipients. In a news release, Executive Editor Stephen Cannella said only a few athletes have “followed [Ali’s] example as fully” as the former San Fransisco quarterback who began kneeling during the pre-game national anthem to protest racial injustice against black people.
“In this noisy political and media environment, it’s easy to forget his core message: that all people in this country deserve to be treated with dignity, respect and recognition of their civil rights,” Cannella said. “Too often that message has been lost in the debate over how it is expressed. Colin has sacrificed much in the name of that message, even as he has furthered it with significant charitable efforts that are making a real difference in communities at the grassroots level.”
The Legacy Award will be presented at the Sportsperson of the Year Awards on Dec. 5. Kaepernick, who remains unsigned to an NFL team, was also recently honored as GQ’s Citizen of the Year.
Since beginning his protest in August 2016, Kaepernick has received criticism from sports leaders and politicians, including President Donald Trump. In the year since beginning his protest, at least 223 black people have been killed by police in this country.