The citizen we need is Colin Kaepernick, GQ’s “Citizen of the Year”


Terrence Allen,

The NFL preseason is not the most interesting thing of the NFL season. There are position battles, rookies playing for the first time and some other storylines trying to keep us interested in the game. However, last NFL preseason was an interesting and important one and it has changed the country as we know it.

In August 2016, Colin Kaepernick sparked a conversation that no one was having. Kaepernick kneeled during the National Anthem as a peaceful protest against inequality to people of color.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” Kaepernick said in an interview with NFL media last year.

This stand against inequality has earned Kaepernick one of the covers of GQ’s annual “Men of the Year” issue. GQ proclaimed him “Citizen of the Year” in this issue. Getting the cover of GQ is a huge honor, but this isn’t the first time Kaepernick has graced the cover of this magazine.

He posed for the cover in 2013, when he was the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers and had just reached the Super Bowl as a backup. Four years later, he is in a vastly different situation and is back on the cover of GQ. Like his protests, many are divided on the news of him receiving the cover as “Citizen of the Year.” People are calling for a boycott of GQ in light of the cover.

He was interested in the cover because he wanted to “reclaim his narrative” as he told GQ. He refuses to speak or do interviews because he feels that silence has done so much and people will try to twist his words. It is easy for people to shift Kaepernick’s narrative and twist what he originally kneeled for. Those opposed to Kaepernick’s protest say he is disrespecting the flag or he is disrespecting the troops. In fact, he intentionally does the exact opposite.

Originally, Kaepernick sat down for the National Anthem as a protest. After meeting with former Seattle Seahawks player and Green Beret, Nate Boyer, he decided to kneel as to not disrespect the flag or the troops. Boyer used the example of soldiers kneeling at their fellow soldiers’ graves as a sign of respect. Kaepernick’s movement gained ground and divided people that supported his message and opposed it.

This season, there have been more players that have kneeled for the National Anthem. Whether they kneeled for the same reason as Kaepernick or did it for another reason is up to each individual to articulate for themselves. The protests have caught President Trump’s attention causing him to make several comments and tweets about it. The negative attention the protest has gained may have cost Kaepernick his job as a quarterback in the NFL.

Kaepernick has yet to sign with a NFL team this season. He and many others believe that he is unemployed because of his protests. In October, he filed a collusion grievance against the league, stating that the owners conspired to keep him out of the NFL. The case is still ongoing and we have yet to see what the outcome will be.

Kaepernick is a martyr for standing up, or kneeling technically speaking, for his beliefs. He risked his career to create a dialogue about issues he believes in. Anyone who selflessly fights for the rights of others when they don’t have to deserves to be the citizen of the year.

This accomplishment will continue to push Kaepernick’s movement and keep the discussion going around the country about inequality. GQ is a well known database, so it will be hard for this to go unnoticed. He is also a finalist for TIME’s “Person of the Year” cover which was released on Dec. 6.

Silence has been effective and his movement is continuing to grow. The cover of GQ will only boost his platform and increase his fight against inequality. The more exposure his story gets, the more his movement continues to succeed. The world will continue to watch as Kaepernick continues to fight.