Colin Kaepernick, an American football player who last year started protesting police brutality against African Americans by kneeling during the US national anthem, has been named “Citizen of the Year” by GQ magazine.
The public stand of the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, who is currently without a team, has sparked a wave of similar protests across the National Football League and other athletic events.
Announcing its decision on Monday, GQ likened Kaepernick to American sports icons, including boxer Muhammad Ali, who opposed the Vietnam War.
WATCH: Taking a stand by bending a knee: How Colin Kaepernick started a movement (2:42)
“He’s been vilified by millions and locked out of the NFL – all because he took a knee to protest police brutality,” the magazine said of Kaepernick’s protest.
“It cost him his job. It also transformed Colin Kaepernick into a lightning rod and a powerful symbol of activism and resistance.
“Kaepernick’s determined stand puts him in rare company in sports history: Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson – athletes who risked everything to make a difference,” it said.
Kaepernick declined to be interviewed by GQ but posed for pictures. He posted a message on Twitter, saying he was “honoured’ by the recognition.
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) November 13, 2017
Kaepernick’s protest against police brutality that disproportionately targets African Americans started in August 2016, but it quickly spread throughout the league and has continued to inspire athletes to kneel during the national anthem well into the 2017 season.
He was intitally backed by his team, the San Francisco 49ers, but faced a barrage of abuse and criticism, including comments from then presidential hopeful Donald Trump.
Brushing aside the issue of racism, Trump, the current US president, told Kaepernick in August 2016 to “find a country that works better for him”.
Responding to the GQ announcement, several famous American sports personalities and social media users voiced their support for Kaepernick.
Colin Kaepernick Will Not Be Silenced https://t.co/HKVJyBF2cM
— deray (@deray) November 13, 2017
— ACLU (@ACLU) November 13, 2017
— Eric Reid (@E_Reid35) November 13, 2017
— ود البيه (@khalidalbaih) November 13, 2017
Black Lives Matter: The backlash against US police