Colin Kaepernick has been named GQ’s citizen of the year after a period in which his protest against racial and social injustice in the US has seen the former NFL quarterback become one of the most divisive figures in America.
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Kaepernick’s story in the GQ profile is told by those close to him, including his former team-mate Eric Reid, his partner Nessa Diab, film-maker Ava DuVernay and academic and Guardian columnist Ameer Hasan Loggins. The article says that Kaepernick, whose stance has been attacked by Donald Trump, is not quoted directly in the story as he believes in “the power of silence”.
“Colin … made it clear to us that he intended to remain silent,” according to the article. “As his public identity has begun to shift from football star to embattled activist, he has grown wise to the power of his silence. It has helped his story go around the world. It has even provoked the ire and ill temper of Donald Trump. Why talk now, when your detractors will only twist your words and use them against you? Why speak now, when silence has done so much?”
Instead, GQ and Kaepernick decided to tell his story through those who know him and through a series of photos of the quarterback on the streets of Harlem – a nod to Muhammad Ali, who would sometimes train on the streets of New York during his exile from boxing after his refusal to participate in the Vietnam war. “That’s why we decided to photograph Colin in public, in Harlem, among the men, women, and children he is fighting for. To connect him to a crusade that stretches back decades,” the article states.
Kaepernick on Monday tweeted that he was “honored” by GQ’s award.
Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since he left the 49ers at the end of last season. The fact that Kaepernick, a player who led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance, has not been able to find a job in his prime years since has led many to believe he has been blackballed. Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman has said that “it has nothing to do with football. You can see that.” Aaron Rodgers, arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, told ESPN in August that: “[Kaepernick] should be on a roster right now. I think because of his protests, he’s not.”
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It is unlikely Kaepernick will return to the NFL anytime soon: he has filed a grievance claiming team owners colluded to keep him out of the league. One of the figures to pay tribute to Kaepernick’s stand in the GQ story was singer and activist Harry Belafonte.
“In my 90th year of life, to see people like Kaepernick having gotten the message and carrying the cause forward is the greatest reward I could ask for,” said Belafonte. “Colin is a remarkable young man. The fact that he spoke out on police brutality against young black men – I thought it was absolutely admirable.”
Photos via source