Colin Kaepernick Receives Harvard Honor, Reveals Reasons for NFL Protests

Colin Kaepernick spoke about his decision to protest against social injustice, saying he felt it was his responsibility to stand up for underprivileged people.

The second-round pick of the 2011 NFL draft rose to prominence in 2016 when he opted to kneel rather than stand during the national anthem as an act of silent protest against social and racial injustice.

Kaepernick entered free agency in 2017 but wasn't given a tryout, which led him to file a lawsuit against the 32 NFL owners, accusing them of colluding to prevent him from returning to the league.

The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback said he did not regret his decision to take a knee even though the furor that surrounded his act might have cost him his place in the NFL.

"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," Kapernick told an audience at Harvard University on Thursday night, as reported by WHDH Boston's Eric Kane.

"Because if we don't, we become complicit in the problem. It is our duty to fight for them, and we are going to continue to fight for them."

Kaepernick receives the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal from Harvard University. #7News

— Eric Kane (@EricKaneTV) October 11, 2018

Kaepernick was one of the eight recipients of the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal from Harvard for his work in social justice. The university described the medal as "Harvard's highest honor in the field of African and African-American studies."

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

— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) October 12, 2018

A month ago, Nike unveiled Kaepernick as one of the faces of its "Just Do It" 30th-anniversary campaign.

"Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything," read the slogan under a black-and-white picture of the former 49er.

Nike's campaign received backlash on social media, with Twitter users posting videos of burning their Nike sneakers to protest the company's choice of Kaepernick as lead testimonial.

President Donald Trump weighed in the #BoycottNike campaign, warning that the sporting apparel giant would suffer a sharp decline in sales as a result of its actions. Trump also criticized the campaign for "sending a terrible message."

Kaepernick touched on the campaign, which has seen Nike's value increase by almost $6 billion since the launch, while addressing the audience at the Hutchins Center Honors in Cambridge.

"As I reflected on that, it made me think of if we all believe something, we won't have to sacrifice everything," he said.

When he first took a knee, Kaepernick was strongly criticized by fans, players and executives, but he said that the shows of support such as that from Oakland's Castlemont High football team—which knelt a week after he did—left a much bigger impression on him.

"One of the young brothers says, 'We don't get to eat at home, so we're going to eat on this field,'" Kaepernick said. "That moment has never left me.

"And I've carried that everywhere I went. And I think that's the reality of what I've fought for, what so many of us have fought for. People live with this every single day."

The protests continued last weekend, with Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid and Miami Dolphins receivers Albert Wilson and Kenny Stills all taking a knee.

Reid was among the first players to support Kaepernick's protest two years ago and, like his former teammate, filed a grievance accusing NFL team owners of colluding with one another other to prevent them from returning to the league.

Last month, Reid signed a one-year deal with the Panthers, leading many to wonder how long Kaepernick would have to wait before he returned to the NFL.

According to figures provided by betting website, his hiatus might be entering its home stretch. The site compiled aggregate odds—based on the initial lines offered by U.S. and foreign oddsmakers—which showed the former 49ers quarterback as the favorite to be the New York Giants' next quarterback.

Kaepernick is a 3/1 favorite to join the G-Men and is responsible for 67 percent of wagers in the last 12 hours, with more than $250,000 wagered on the controversial NFL star to be signed by the Giants at the end of the year.

On Thursday night, the Giants were steamrolled 34-13 by the Philadelphia Eagles at home and slumped to 1-5 for the season, with Eli Manning throwing for 281 yards, completing 24 of his 43 attempts for no touchdowns and one interception.

The 37-year-old Manning's decline has been beyond drastic—he is 43-58 in the regular season since winning a second Super Bowl in 2011—and his performance once again led pundits to question why the Giants opted against replacing him in the summer.