It’s safe to say the annual Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year Awards got the surprise of a lifetime last night, with none other than Beyoncé waltzing onto the stage to present Colin Kaepernick with the ceremony’s most prominent honor — the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, signifying an athlete who has consistently and relentlessly advocated change throughout the course of their career.
If you’re not in tune to the world of the “sports ball,” allow us to provide a brief recap of Kaepernick’s achievements: As a successful quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, he began to kneel during the national anthem in 2016 to protest unnecessary police brutality against minority groups. Thus, “take a knee” soon became a movement among many professional athletes and sports communities, eventually drawing the ire of President Donald Trump. Kaepernick has since been a free agent, beginning earlier this year.
Back at the awards ceremony, Beyoncé spoke from the heart when it came to outlining Kaepernick’s sprawling achievements for social and political change. “It feels so good to be here on such a special night of appreciation. “Thank you, Colin Kaepernick. Thank you for your selfless heart and your conviction. Thank you for your personal sacrifice,” she began, per BuzzFeed News. “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. We are still waiting for the world to catch up.”
She continued, not so subtly calling out Kaepernick’s detractors: “It’s been said that racism is so American, that when we protest racism, some assume we are protesting America. So, let’s be very clear: Colin has always been very respectful of the individuals who selflessly serve and protect our country and our communities and our families. His message is solely focused on social injustice for historically disenfranchised people. Let’s not get that mistaken.”
As for Kaepernick, he used his acceptance speech to promise that he’ll always continue “to work for the people.” Once a good man, always a good man.