Beyoncé, who chooses her friends and public appearances wisely, came out of hiding last night to honor Colin Kaepernick at the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year awards. Kaepernick didn’t win the show’s titular award—in avoiding an inevitable PR shitstorm, they gave that to Houston’s J.J. Watt and Jose Altuve instead—but he took home the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award.
She was something of a surprise guest, introducing the fifth runner up for Time’s Person of the Year for the honor. After a year of kneeling in protest during the National Anthem, Kaepernick was effectively blackballed from the NFL and instead redirected his efforts toward bettering communities in need, while the president focused his ire toward other protesting athletes. Beyoncé clearly outlined the false conflation between protesting the flag and America with protesting racial injustice and police brutality in her introduction (via Pitchfork):
Thank you for your personal sacrifice. 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. It’s been said that racism is so American that when we protest racism, some assume we’re protesting America. So, let’s be very clear. Colin has always been very respectful of the individuals who selflessly serve and protect our country and our communities and our families. His message is solely focused on social injustice for historically disenfranchised people. Let’s not get that mistaken.
SI’s website writes that the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award is intended to “celebrate individuals whose dedication to the ideals of sportsmanship has spanned decades and whose career in athletics has directly or indirectly impacted the world.” Kaepernick’s legacy has yet to span decades, but we’ll surely be talking about his work to fight injustice—and the dumb debates that ensued about flag-respecting—for years to come.