Colin Kaepernick, the pro football player who took a stand by taking a knee, was honored at the ACLU of Southern California's annual Bill of Rights awards event in Beverly Hills on Sunday evening.
Kaepernick, who became an international figure in the fight against racial injustice by kneeling in protest during the national anthem at football games, received the ACLU SoCal’s Eason Monroe Courageous Advocate Award.
"We all have an obligation no matter the risk, and regardless of reward, to stand up for our fellow men and women who are being oppressed with the understanding that human rights cannot be compromised," Kaepernick told the crowd in accepting the award.
He got a standing ovation from the crowd that included fellow award winners Viola Davis, Jane Fonda, Judd Apatow, Gina Rodriguez, Dolores Huerta and Reginald Hudlin; presenters Martin Sheen, Billy Eichner, Van Jones, Lilly Singh, and Congresswoman Maxine Waters; and entertainers for the event Andra Day and Common.
Kaepernick began his silent protests before games last year while playing for the San Francisco 49ers. His actions sparked similar protests not only among athletes in the U.S., but around the world. He became a free agent at the end of that season but no team brought him aboard for the current season.
ACLU SoCal Executive Director Hector Villagra introduced Kaepernick at the sold-out event. "He took a stand knowing he would risk his job, and he has lost his job; one that he loved and was supremely talented and skilled at," Villagra said of Kaepernick.
"He took a stand knowing some would criticize him, and he has been viciously and unfairly criticized. He has been called a traitor because too many people in this country confuse dissent for disloyalty."
Founded in 1923, the ACLU SoCal has been at the forefront of major efforts to protect civil liberties, civil rights and equal justice in California. Principled and nonpartisan, the ACLU SoCal has offices in Los Angeles, Orange County, and the Inland Empire. The ACLU SoCal tackles a vast array of issues, including criminal justice, police practices, First Amendment rights, gender equity and reproductive justice, LGBTQ rights, immigrants’ rights, education equity and economic justice.