Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people on 2017, which was revealed on Thursday.
Kaepernick, who sparked a national conversation about race, social inequality and activism through his decision not to stand during the playing of the national anthem during NFL games, was placed in the Icons subcategory alongside names like U.S. Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, Belgian fashion designer Raf Simons and pioneering actress Viola Davis.
Kaepernick’s entry was written by his former head coach Jim Harbaugh, who is currently the head coach at the University of Michigan and coached the Niners’ from 2011-2014.
“Colin Kaepernick was alone in his early protests last year when he boldly and courageously confronted perceived inequalities in our social-justice system by refusing to stand for the national anthem. At times in our nation’s history, we have been all too quick to judge and oppose our fellow Americans for exercising their First Amendment right to address things they believe unjust.
“Rather than besmirch their character, we must celebrate their act. For we cannot pioneer and invent if we are fearful of deviating from the norm, damaging our public perception or—most important—harming our own personal interests.
“I thank Colin for all he has contributed to the game of football as an outstanding player and trusted teammate. I also applaud Colin for the courage he has demonstrated in exercising his guaranteed right of free speech. His willingness to take a position at personal cost is now part of our American story.
‘How lucky for us all and for our country to have among our citizens someone as remarkable as Colin Kaepernick.”
Kaepernick made the cover of Time’s Oct. 3 issue, in which he is pictured kneeling.
Kaepernick first raised eyebrows when he sat on the bench during the anthem in the preseason. He later revealed it was a protest against what he saw as oppression against blacks and other minorities in the United States.
Kaepernick later switched to taking a knee after talking with former Green Beret Nate Boyer, who had a brief career with the Seattle Seahawks as a long snapper. The reason was to continue the protest but still show respect for those in the military.
As the regular season started, more players joined the protest. Some kneeled, while others raised their fist in the air.
— James Walker (@JamesWalkerNFL) September 11, 2016
Here are Martellus Bennett and Devin McCourty raising their fists for the National Anthem. Patriots, both. pic.twitter.com/rDilAEaCUj
— Robert Klemko (@RobertKlemko) September 12, 2016
The former Niners’ quarterback is one of six athletes to appear among TIME’s four categories. On the Icons list is Kaepernick, Biles and FC Barcelona soccer star Neymar. The Titans list includes Cleveland Cavaliers small forward LeBron James and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. UFC fighter Conor McGregor was placed in the Pioneers category.
Kaepernick has been a free agent since opting out of his contract March 3. He would have otherwise been released from the 49ers, who faced paying him $14.5 million in base salary. Some have speculated the reason he hasn’t been signed yet is because of his protests. One report even suggested team owners don’t want to get a nasty tweet from President Donald Trump if they add Kapernick to their roster.
On the same day of the announcement, The Colin Kaepernick Foundation published another round of donations from the quarterback: $100,000 in total to Life After Hate, Inc., Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle and Silence Is Violence charities. He is now up to $600,000 in total donations, according to a release send out by the foundation. His plan is to spread $1 million total across various charities.
Kaepernick said last month he will stand for the anthem this season.