Colin Kaepernick gave a rare public address while accepting an award at the ACLU of Southern California’s annual Bill of Rights Dinner on Sunday night.
The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback was honored with the Eason Monroe Courageous Advocate Award for launching the NFL national anthem protests that have drawn criticism from as high up as President Trump.
“We must confront systemic oppression as a doctor would a disease,” Kaepernick said. “You identify it, you call it out, you treat it, and you defeat it. 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.”
“In the words of Frederick Douglass, if there is no struggle, there is no progress,” he concluded, in reference to the famous abolitionist and social reformer.
Kaepernick, who remains unsigned with an NFL team, was the first player to kneel during the “Star-Spangled Banner” last year in protest of police brutality and racial inequality.
He was praised by ACLU of Southern California Executive Director Hector Villagra, who said Kaepernick “took a stand knowing he would risk his job … one that he loved and was supremely talented and skilled at.”
“He took a stand knowing that some would criticize him, and he has been viciously and unfairly criticized,” Villagra said. “He has been called a traitor because too many people in this country confuse dissent for disloyalty.”
On Monday, Kaepernick was named one of 10 finalists for Time’s annual “Person of the Year” award, alongside Trump, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins and the #MeToo movement.