San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who defied professional football’s usual fear of confronting racial unrest, was voted the 49ers’ most courageous and inspirational player by his teammates, the NFL club announced Friday, the New York Daily News reports.
Kaepernick, who knelt during the national anthem in protest against police brutality this season, was voted the winner of the 2016 Len Eshmont Award.
In August, Kaepernick gave his reasons for not standing during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” saying, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Though many of his teammates and others in the league openly criticized him in his stand for black lives, many athletes in all areas of sports also supported him, as did many private citizens who snatched up his No. 7 jersey in record numbers.
“I think what Kap did will be talked about for years to come—an NFL player using his platform for what he wanted to use it for,” veteran safety Antoine Bethea said Thursday on the CSN Bay Area’s 49ers podcast.
Some critics, like former Baltimore Ravens quarterback Trent Difler and Boomer Esiason, said that Kaepernick’s actions were “disrespectful” and would cause division in the locker room, but apparently that wasn’t the case.
“[Kaepernick’s actions have] disrupted that organization,” said Difler in September. “It has caused friction. And it’s torn at the fabric of the team.”
And yet the Daily News reports that Kaepernick‘s team was always behind him. When he pledged $1 million to community organizations in September, 49ers CEO Jed York announced that he would match the donation.
The coach of the team, Chip Kelly, said that Kaepernick was “shedding light on a situation that is heinous … [and] needs to be taken care of.”
Read more at the New York Daily News.