GQ named Colin Kaepernick its first “Man of the Year” of 2017 on Monday. He is featured on the December issue’s cover.
Kaepernick began making headlines last year when he knelt during the national anthem at a football game to protest police brutality against people of color. By kneeling, he sparked a national conversation about systemic oppression that was reignited when President Donald Trump turned the spotlight of the debate on himself.
Kaepernick has since been professionally iced from football, and the NFL is still feeling rippling effects of the protests.
In the GQ cover story, the former San Francisco 49ers player was compared to other athletes, like Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson, whose activism paralleled their sports careers.
Among them were film director Ava Duvernay, rapper J. Cole, Women’s March organizers Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory, and actor and activist Harry Belafonte.
“I always tell Colin: ‘You are an American hero. You may not feel like a hero right now, but one day, people will realize the sacrifices that you made for so many others,” Sarsour said.
Kaepernick said in a tweet Monday that he is “honored” by the recognition.
While GQ’s choice didn’t go uncriticized by people who disagree with his protests, many Twitter users praised Kaepernick and honored his recognition in the magazine.
As a proud military veteran, I could not agree more with @GQMagazine in honoring Colin Kaepernick as "Citizen of the Year".— Charlotte Clymer 🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) November 13, 2017
I see him as a courageous voice, someone who stands up for Constitutional values, no matter the opposition. That, to me, is true patriotism.
Nobody is more deserving of Citizen of the Year than Colin Kaepernick, a true American hero who sacrificed his career to fight white supremacy. https://t.co/iRIbhlAaaz— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) November 13, 2017
very proud to see that new GQ cover of @Kaepernick7 💯🔥 congrats king. love to see media promoting someone doing the right thing.— blonde don (@machinegunkelly) November 13, 2017
Gal Gadot, Kevin Durant, and Stephen Colbert are also named “citizens of the year” in the issue.