According to billboard.com, DoSomething.org’s annual Celebs Gone Good list for 2017 is topped by Chicago artist and philanthropist Chance The Rapper. Chano is s followed by Arianna Grande, Rihanna, and Colin Kaepernick. Nicki Minaj and Ava DuVernay also appear, making their debuts on the list. The list recognizes celebrities who used their impact to affect social change in the world, as they helped raise awareness for causes such as mental health, education, gun violence, LGBTQ, sexual assault, hurricane/disaster relief and the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
The organization also selected eight Celebs to Watch in 2018, featuring young talent who give back. Teen actress Skai Jackson and Beyonce’s protégé Chloe X Halle made the cut, by inspiring young women and speaking out about women’s rights and bullying. Halima Aden also made the list for promoting diversity in the fashion industry, becoming the first hijab-wearing fashion model.
Colin Kaepernick made his truth known when he first decided not to stand for the national anthem. He had a lot of football left to play and a lot more money to make when he made his decision. It was late August, 2016. People who were anonymous in life had become famous in death. Philando Castile. Eric Garner. Alton Sterling. Freddie Gray. They were tragic symbols of a society that had taken a terribly wrong turn. As the anthem played ahead of the 49ers’ preseason game against the Texans, Kaepernick, San Francisco’s 28-year-old quarterback at the time, quietly took a seat on the bench.
It took two weeks for anyone from the media to ask him about it. Kaepernick explained that he was making a statement about inequality and social justice, about the ways this country “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,” he added. “There are bodies in the street,” he said then, “and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
In the last 16 months, Kaepernick’s truth has been twisted, distorted and used for political gain. It has cost him at least a year of his NFL career and the income that should have come with it. But still, it is his truth. He has not wavered from it. He does not regret speaking it. He has caused millions of people to examine it. And, quietly, he has donated nearly a million dollars to support it.
For all those reasons—for his steadfastness in the fight for social justice, for his adherence to his beliefs no matter the cost—Colin Kaepernick is the recipient of the 2017 Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award. Each year SI and the Ali family honor a figure who embodies the ideals of sportsmanship, leadership and philanthropy and has used sports as a platform for changing the world. “I am proud to be able to present this to Colin for his passionate defense of social justice and civil rights for all people,” says Lonnie Ali, Muhammad’s widow. “Like Muhammad, Colin is a man who stands on his convictions with confidence and courage, undaunted by the personal sacrifices he has had to make to have his message heard. And he has used his celebrity and philanthropy to the benefit of some of our most vulnerable community members.”
Previous Legacy winners—including Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown, Jack Nicklaus and Magic Johnson—were deserving. But no winner has been more fitting than Kaepernick. Ali lost more than three years of his career for his refusal to serve in the military in opposition to the Vietnam War. Kaepernick has lost one year, so far, for his pursuit of social justice.
When Kaepernick first protested during the national anthem, he could not have envisioned the size and duration of the ensuing firestorm. But he knew there would be fallout. So much has changed in America since the summer of 2016, and so many words have been used to describe Kaepernick. But his words from his first explanation remain his truth:
“This is not something that I am going to run by anybody. I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. … If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”
Kaepernick kept his job for a season before being blackballed by the NFL—and yes, he has been blackballed. This should be obvious by now. Scott Tolzien, Cody Kessler, Tom Savage and Matt Cassel have thrown passes in the league this year, yet nobody has tried to sign Kaepernick, who is fifth in NFL history in touchdown-to-interception ratio. Kaepernick has been called a distraction, which is laughable— his coach last year, Chip Kelly, says there was “zero distraction,” and his 49ers teammates said the same. Most NFL players would rather be “distracted” by Kaepernick than try to tackle the guy who just intercepted Brock Osweiler.
Kaepernick has paid a price beyond missing games and losing paychecks. He has been battered by critics who don’t want to understand him. Some say Kaepernick hates America; he says he is trying to make it better. Others say he hates the military, but on Sept. 1, 2016, as the then-San Diego Chargers played a tribute to the military on the stadium videoboard, Kaepernick applauded.
Nobody claims Kaepernick is perfect. Reasonable, woke people can be upset that he did not vote in the 2016 election. But the Ali Legacy Award does not honor perfection, and the criticisms of Kaepernick are misguided in one fundamental way: They make this story a referendum on Kaepernick. It was never supposed to be about him. It is about Tamir Rice and the world’s highest incarceration rate and a country that devalues education and slides too easily into violence.
When Ali was drafted into the military in 1967 and refused to report, much of the country disapproved. Ali explained his refusal by saying: “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam after so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”
Time ultimately shined a softer light on Ali. For the last 40 years of his life, Ali was arguably the most popular athlete in American history. But in the late 1960s, he was deeply unpopular and his future was uncertain.
Ali was 25 when he was banned from boxing and 28 when he returned to the sport. Boxing historians sometimes wonder what he would have done in those prime years. But Ali did not look at it that way. Instead of focusing on the piece of his career that he lost, he talked about what he had gained: a sense of self, and of purpose, greater than he could ever find in the ring. He risked prison time. He did not know if he would ever be allowed to fight again. But he knew he was clinging to his truth. As Ali later toldSI’s George Plimpton: “Every man wonders what he is going to do when he is put on the chopping block, when he’s going to be tested.”
Someday, America may well be a better place because of Colin Kaepernick. This is hard to see now— history is not meant to be analyzed in real time. But we are having conversations we need to have, and this should eventually lead to changes we need to make. Police officers, politicians and citizens can work together to create a safer, fairer, more civil society. Kaepernick did not want to sacrifice his football career for this. But he did it anyway. It is a rare person who gives up what he loves in exchange for what he believes.
During a time in our country where the political climate has been heated and racial tensions were seemingly at an all-time high, the daughters of the late civil rights leader Malcolm X were using fashion as an avenue for social activism, Black Enterprise reported.
Ilyasah Shabazz, Qubilah Shabazz, Attallah Shabazz, Gamilah Lumumba Shabazz and Malaak Shabazz have all teamed up with the tech company Hingeto to create a clothing line that pays homage to their father’s legacy. The line, dubbed Malcolm X Legacy, features items that are inspired by the activist’s twelve principles which stressed the importance of human rights, education, economic independence, cultural pride, and justice. The collection features hats, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and will soon include artwork.
Leandrew Robinson, the CEO of Hingeto, told Black Enterprise that a clothing line like this is more fitting now than ever with all of the turmoil that has been happening within our country. “It was clear Malcolm’s principles are as relevant today as ever. We all thought it was imperative to represent his message and today’s human rights movement as a brand that people can outfit themselves in daily,” said Robinson. He also added that Colin Kaepernick has cosigned the new brand and has taken to Twitter to share info about the line.
Malcolm X Legacy’s site delves into his contributions to the Civil Rights movement. “Malcolm X will be remembered for his contribution to society of underscoring the value of a truly free populace by demonstrating the great lengths to which human beings will go to secure their freedom,” read the site.
GQ Magazinehas just named Colin Kaepernick as its “Citizen of the Year.” In a special December issue of the magazine, Kaepernick paired with GQ as well as ten of his closest allies and friends to “reclaim the narrative of his protest.” The magazine calls Kaepernick “the man who became the movement” and referenced the fact that, four years ago, Kaepernick had been on the cover as one of the rising stars in American football.
“In 2013, Colin Kaepernick was on the cover of this magazine because he was one of the best football players in the world. In 2017, Colin Kaepernick is on GQ‘s cover once again—but this time it is because he isn’t playing football. And it’s not because he’s hurt, or because he’s broken any rules, or because he’s not good enough,” GQ wrote in the piece.
The piece also noted:
HE IS STILL, TO THIS DAY, ONE OF THE MOST GIFTED QUARTERBACKS ON EARTH. AND YET HE HAS BEEN LOCKED OUT OF THE GAME HE LOVES—BLACKBALLED—BECAUSE OF ONE SIMPLE GESTURE: HE KNELT DURING THE PLAYING OF OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM. AND HE DID IT FOR A CLEAR REASON, ONE THAT HAS BEEN LOST IN THE YEARLONG STORM THAT FOLLOWED. HE DID IT TO PROTEST SYSTEMIC OPPRESSION AND, MORE SPECIFICALLY, AS HE SAID REPEATEDLY AT THE TIME, POLICE BRUTALITY TOWARD BLACK PEOPLE.
But rather than speaking for himself about his protests, Kaepernick has vowed to keep his silence on the matter, and instead, the piece features ten people close to the former 49ers quarterback who spoke about what the protest means to them and what we can do, as a nation, to keep speaking out against injustice.
John Legend and Jesse Williams are working on a documentary that will look at the 1968 Black Power salute seen around the world. More than four decades before Colin Kaepernick took a knee in silent protest of police brutality and racial injustice, Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos made a statement with raised fists during the Summer Olympic games in Mexico City.
The documentary, With Drawn Arms, is executive produced by Williams and Legend, along with the Grammy and Oscar winning singer’s partners from his Get Lifted Film Co., Deadline reports. Smith is the focus of the documentary. The former sprinter and NFL wide received took home the gold medal at the 1968 games after completing the 200-meter dash, while Carlos earned the bronze medal. Both men were suspended for raising their fists during the medal ceremony, stripped of their credentials, and given 48 hours to leave Olympic Village.
With Drawn Arms is currently in production in Los Angeles and is co-directed by Glenn Kaino and Afshin Shahidi, who is the father of Black-ish actress Yara Shahidi, and worked as one of Prince’s personal photographers. “Tommie Smith is more than an iconic poster or risky act of defiance that inspires people the world over,” Williams said in a statement noting that Smith is a “living man, whose incredible journey is worthy of examination.” He added, “I couldn’t be more excited to join forces with this team of filmmakers, to share his reality and challenge our notions of heroism in the process.”
Empty sidelines in Nashville and Chicago. Jacksonville owner Shad Khan standing arm in arm with his players. The Miami Dolphins wearing “I’m With Kap” T-shirts during warm-ups. Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis eloquently explaining his change of heart about players protesting during the national anthem. The NFL had one of its finest moments before the games even began Sunday, coming together from every corner – players, coaches, owners and league office – in forceful rebuke of the latest torrent of hate from President Donald Trump.
Whether black, white or brown, on bended knee or with locked arms, the NFL’s rare show of unity was both a dignified condemnation of the wrongs we still must right and a reminder that, for all of our differences, America remains our common ground. “Over the last year, though, the streets have gotten hot and there has been a lot of static in the air and recently, fuel has been added to the fire,” Davis said in a statement. “… Not only do we have to tell people there is something wrong, we have to come up with answers.“That’s the challenge in front of us as Americans and human beings.”
Be it Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali,Billie Jean King or Magic Johnson, sports has long been the prism through which we see society. And fondly as we regard those trailblazers now, that wasn’t always the case. Changing hearts and minds, getting people to shed their stereotypes and ignorance, took sacrifice, anger and, yes, even protest.
In that way, the NFL’s league-wide show of unity was merely the latest in a long history of sports and activism being intertwined. It wasn’t even particularly radical when measured against the outspokenness and activism by current NBA players and coaches.
But what made Sunday so stunning was how out of character it was, a seismic shift for a league that has been loath to allow any kind of individuality or personal expression. The NFL barely tolerates touchdown celebrations, let alone a call to acknowledge the pervasive racism that marginalizes a good portion of our country.
Maybe that’s what Trump was counting on with his remarks Friday — and again Saturday and Sunday — that were as ignorant as they were inflammatory, yet more racist dog whistles for his base. Perhaps he figured the league that has effectively blackballed Colin Kaepernick would let his thinly veiled bigotry pass in uncomfortable silence.
But the NFL showed Sunday that Trump has badly overplayed his hand.
“We will not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of color in this country,” the Seattle Seahawks said in a statement announcing that the team would stay in the locker room during the national anthem.
Even in a league where blinders might as well be part of the uniform, it was not lost on anyone that Trump found a way to defend Nazi protesters yet called Kaepernick and anyone else who protested during the national anthem a “son of a (expletive).” Ditto for his history of calling out and criticizing people of color while letting egregious behavior by whites go unchallenged.
The demonstrations by Kaepernick and the other players who have joined in are not about the national anthem or the military or the flag. They never have been. They are about the racism that continues to be pervasive in our society, manifesting itself in police brutality, economic inequality and disparity in education and opportunity.
No one is naïve enough to assume the NFL will now be the standard bearer in this latest fight for civil rights; moving as all the demonstrations were, it did not go unnoticed that the theme was “unity” rather than inequality, and that very few white players took a knee.
Colin Kaepernick has pledged $25,000 toward aid for immigrant youth and efforts to keep the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in place. The news comes in the wake of Donald Trump’s announced end of DACA, leaving the fate of some 800,000 young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children up to Congress.
Kaepernick, who remains a free agent for the NFL, has been at the center of political controversy since his decision to take a knee last year during the National Anthem in protest of racism and police brutality. Additionally the former quarterback had pledged to donate $1 million toward efforts to help communities affected by systemic racism, social injustice and police brutality.
Kaepernick announced that a quarter of the $100,000 he donates to that end each month (for 10 months) will go toward children of immigrant backgrounds who are being affected by Trump’s planned repeal of DACA. In partnership with United We Dream – the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the U.S. – he will contribute a percentage of the amount to the following areas:
• Addressing the inequities and obstacles faced by immigrant youth. Over 100,000 members. Current focus: Organize and work for immigrant children to keep DACA in force.
• $10,000 for upcoming travel. Air, hotel, lodging, and ground transportation. United We Dream recently held event in Washington DC and sent 300 dreamers to lobby to keep DACA. This budget will pay for 75-100 attendees for a similar rally upcoming.
• $10,000 for series of upcoming local gatherings in NY, CT, TX, FL, NM. Facilities rent and security, transportation, food, technology
• $5,000 for text service for the network of over 100,000 members.