Colin Kaepernick Receives Muhammad Ali Legacy Award as NFL Commits Nearly $90 Million to Player Activism

By Sameer Rao Nov 30, 2017

Sports Illustrated announced today (November 30) that Colin Kaepernick will receive its 2017 Muhammad Ali Legacy Award. The news comes one day after the National Football League (NFL)—which he is suing for allegedly blackballing him for kneeling in protest of state violence against Black people—reportedly committed nearly $90 million to supporting players’ social justice activism.

Per a statement sent to press, the publication will honor Kaepernick at its annual Sportsperson of the Year Awards ceremony, which airs on NBC Sports Network at 8 p.m. EST on Friday, December 10. Sports Illustrated renamed its Sportsman Legacy Award for Ali in 2015. The late boxer and activist’s widow, Lonnie Ali, partners with Sports Illustrated each year to determine the recipient.

“I am proud to be able to present this to Colin for his passionate defense of social justice and civil rights for all people,” Ali told Sports Illustrated. “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.”

Kaepernick’s protest and ongoing free agency has inspired similar protests from other athletes, and backlash from opponents like President Donald Trump. His actions also preceded efforts from numerous NFL players, including those operating as The Players Coalition, to have the league support players’ grassroots activism around criminal justice reform and other racial equity causes.

The Washington Post reports today that the players’ push for league support lead to a $90 million commitment to their advocacy. Anonymous sources told The Post that player representatives and league executives reached an agreement last night (November 29). The Post adds that team owners, all but one of whom are White men, will have final approval over the terms of the agreement. The negotiations reportedly did not resolve the tension between some players and executives over kneeling protests during the pre-game national anthem. The league has not commented on this meeting as of press time.