“Colin took action with no fear of consequence or repercussion — only hope to change the world for the better, to change perception, to change the way we treated each other — especially people of color,” Beyoncé said.
The gesture spread to other players this year after repeated criticism from President Donald Trump, who called on the NFL to fire players who refused to stand during the anthem, prompting displays of solidarity across the league.
Although Kaepernick has remained unemployed this season, and even filed a grievance alleging NFL owners “colluded” to deprive him of job opportunities, he has started receiving accolades for his action.
He was recently named Citizen of the Year by GQ, landing on the magazine’s cover, and on Monday received the ACLU’s award for Courageous Advocate.
On Tuesday, Kaepernick was in New York City for the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year Awards to receive the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, which is given to athletes who promote change. To present the award, Trevor Noah announced a surprise guest — Beyoncé — would be taking the stage.
“It feels so good to be here on such a special night of appreciation,” Beyoncé said after taking the stage.
“Thank you Colin Kaepernick. Thank you for your selfless heart and your conviction,” she said. “Thank you for your personal sacrifice.”
“Colin took action with no fear of consequence or repercussion — only hope to change the world for the better, to change perception, to change the way we treated each other, especially people of color,” she said. “
“We are still waiting for the world to catch up,” she added.
In an acceptance speech, Kaepernick promised that he would continue his work for social justice. “With or without the NFL's platform, I will continue to work for the people,” he said.
The athlete said he hoped to carry on Ali's legacy, who “mentored me without ever meeting me.”
“The footprints he leaves are large,” Kaepernick said, “and his life is and has been a multi-textured tapestry that is rich in love, wisdom, life lessons and human kindness. I can only hope that I'm taking steps toward walking on the footsteps that he has left behind for the world to follow.”