Beyoncé praised Colin Kaepernick for his “selfless heart and conviction” and “personal sacrifice” while presenting the quarterback and activist with Sports Illustrated‘s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award Tuesday.
During her surprise appearance at the magazine’s Sportsperson of the Year ceremony, Beyoncé delivered a short speech celebrating Kaepernick, whose decision to take a knee during the National Anthem in protest of police brutality and systemic racism sparked similar actions throughout the sports world.
“Thank you, Colin Kaepernick, thank you for your selfless heart and your conviction, thank you for your personal sacrifice,” Beyoncé said in a video shot from the audience. “Colin took action with no fear of consequence or repercussion, only hope to change the world for the better. To change perception, to change the way we treat each other, especially people of color. We’re still waiting for the world to catch up.”
Kaepernick first kneeled during the National anthem before a 2016 preseason game while he was still signed to the San Francisco 49ers. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he said at the time. Throughout the season, Kaepernick continued to kneel, garnering both support and vitriol as athletes in the NFL and other sports adopted similar protests.
Kaepernick left the 49ers at the end of the 2016 season but has since gone unsigned in the NFL. In October, he filed a grievance of collusion against the NFL’s owners, arguing that he was being “blackballed” from the league because of his protest. Despite Kaepernick’s absence, many NFL players continued to kneel during the National Anthem in protest against racial injustice, even as some — including President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence – tried to spin the act as disrespectful of the American flag and military. Outside the NFL, Kaepernick has continued to work as an activist, recently receiving the ACLU’s Bill of Rights Award.
While accepting SI‘s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, Kaepernick said, “I accept this award not for myself, but on behalf of the people. Because if it were not for my love of the people, I would not have protested. And if it was not for the support from the people, I would not be on this stage today. With our without the NFL’s platform, I will continue to work for the people because my platform is the people.”
The full Sportsperson of the Year Award ceremony will air December 8th at 8 p.m. ET on NBC Sports.