As questions swirl about the NFL’s commitment to racial equality, Colin Kaepernick, the man who started the #TakeAKnee movement, is breaking his silence.
Over the past few months, Kaepernick has let his actions speak for him. He has donated a lot of money; he has refused to respond to President Trump’s Twitter taunts and he he refused to be interviewed for his GQ Man of the Year article, allowing those who know him be interviewed instead.
This weekend, however, while accepting the American Civil Liberities Union’s Eason Monroe Courageous Advocate Award, Kaepernick let his voice be heard.
Amid near-continuous cheers from the audience in attendance, Kaepernick, wearing what seemed to be the black-designed leather blazer from his GQ shoot, raised his fist and said, “We must confront systemic oppression as a doctor would a disease. You identify it, you call it out, you treat it, and you defeat it.”
The ACLU was honoring Kaepernick for the way he has confronted systemic oppression — by taking a knee, he has drawn international attention to oppression in America, and, many believe, has lost his job in the NFL because of it.
CNN reports that the executive director of the ACLU, Hector Villagra, praised Kaep and his sacrifice by saying, “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.”
And Villagra acknowledged that keeping the protest alive under nothing less than presidential pressure hasn’t been easy. “He took a stand knowing that 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.”
For his part, Kaepernick said that all the negative comments he has gotten and all of the flak he has taken are nothing; he said that in taking a knee, he was merely carrying out his responsibilities.
“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,” the ex-quarterback said.
Ending his brief remarks, Kaepernick reminded everyone that the struggle for civil rights for all has been long, and has never been easy, but that from sacrifice comes a better tomorrow.
“In the words of Frederick Douglass,” Kaepernick said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”
See the full speech for yourself below: