The activist and former 49ers player was honored with the award—which goes to an athlete who embodies “the ideals of sportsmanship, leadership, and philanthropy as vehicles for changing the world”—for using his sports platform to peacefully protest racial injustice and police violence. By taking a knee during the national anthem before a game in 2016, Kaepernick sparked a nationwide movement that’s still making headlines more than a year later. But despite his impressive career and lack of injuries, Kaepernick was dropped by the 49ers and remains mysteriously unsigned by any NFL team.
The pop star—and arguably one of the most recognizable women alive—honoring him onstage Tuesday night was a major show of solidarity.
“Colin took action with no fear of consequence or repercussion, only hope to change the world for the better,” Beyoncé said. “To change perception, to change the way we treat each other, especially people of color. We’re still waiting for the world to catch up.”
Beyoncé presents Colin Kaepernick with the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award at the Sports Illustrated Awards tonight! pic.twitter.com/U9J4gwmGdA— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) December 6, 2017
Kaepernick then took the stage and accepted the award on behalf of others.
“I say this as a person who receives credit for using my platform to protest systemic oppression, racialized injustice, and the dire consequences of anti-Blackness in America. I accept this award not for myself, but on behalf of the people,” Kaepernick said. “Because if it were not for my love of the people, I would not have protested. And if it was not for the support from the people, I would not be on this stage today. With or without the NFL’s platform, I will continue to work for the people because my platform is the people.”