After being honored for his contributions to black culture on Thursday, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick implored protests against racial injustice and inequality to continue.
"I feel like it's not only my responsibility, but all our responsibilities as people that are in positions of privilege, in positions of power, to continue to fight for them and uplift them, empower them," Kaepernick said in a speech at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University Thursday afternoon. "Because if we don't we become complicit in the problem."
The center honored Kaepernick, and eight others, with the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal "in recognition of their contributions to African and African American culture and the life of the mind."
Thank you Harvard University for honoring me tonight with the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal. I'm grateful for this recognition and to be amongst the other highly esteemed honorees that inspire me.
Photo Credit: Amari Kenoly @foot_candles pic.twitter.com/plXOBuwBlF— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) October 12, 2018
In 2016, Kaepernick sat, then ultimately kneeled, during the playing of the national anthem before games to protest racial and social injustice. After the 49ers hired general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan, Kaepernick opted out of his contract and became a free agent. Lynch told ProFootballTalk last year that San Francisco would have cut Kaepernick had he not opted out.
The 30-year-old remains unsigned as a free agent, and is one of the faces of Nike's 30th anniversary "Just Do It" campaign. Former 49ers safety Eric Reid, who was the first player to kneel alongside Kaepernick, just signed with the Carolina Panthers on Sept. 28. Reid started in his Panthers debut on Sunday, and said he had mixed feelings returning to the field while Kaepernick was not on an NFL roster.
"It's bittersweet," Reid told reporters in Charlotte on Sunday (via The Athletic). "We won the game, but [Kaepernick] is home with my kids. He should be playing."