Colin Kaepernick is one of eight notable Americans being honored by Harvard University for contributions to black history and culture. The Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard will present Kaepernick, comedian Dave Chappelle and others with the W.E.B. Du Bois award on Oct. 11.
Kaepernick, a former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, began kneeling during the national anthem during the 2016 preseason as a way of protesting police brutality and racial injustice. The move set off a national debate, with critics of Kaepernick’s move fixating on whether it was unpatriotic while supporters in the NFL have begun building bridges between police and the communities they serve.
Kaepernick remains unsigned by any NFL team despite possessing quarterback skills that are certainly the equal of many of the league’s signal-callers, and it’s impossible to say that Kaepernick’s strident public statements didn’t have a role in that.
After a year of virtual silence, a period in which critics up to the president of the United States attacked the act of Kaepernick’s protest without addressing its purpose, Kaepernick has begun returning to public life. Most recently, he became the centerpiece of a new Nike ad campaign that, predictably, divided Americans along political lines.
The W.E.B. Du Bois awards recognize ”significant contributions to African and African American history and culture” and ”individuals who advocate for intercultural understanding and human rights.” Kaepernick has arranged for $1 million in donations to a range of charitable causes. His jersey and other mementos have been added to a “Black Lives Matter” collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History.
As Kaepernick’s days as an NFL quarterback appear over and continue to recede into the past, it’s apparent he will be moving into a more activist role going forward.
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