It’s long been clear that Colin Kaepernick has become a bigger hero off the football field than he ever was on it. In a year that has seen the ripple effects of the quarterback’s 2016 national anthem protests against racial injustice (protests that effectively barred him from playing the sport again but that have become a movement of their own), GQ saw fit to recognize the athlete and activist as one if its “Men of the Year.”
Kaepernick shares the distinction with comedian and Late Show host Stephen Colbert, NBA star Kevin Durant and Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot, GQ’s sole Woman of the Year.
Kaepernick’s exact title is Citizen of the Year—an allusion to his political activism and its costs. Notably, Kaepernick’s all-black-everything cover clearly references Black Panther Party imagery, with his fully picked-out Afro, black leather jacket and black turtleneck. (In case you were wondering, the Daily Caller has already unleashed its big mad take.)
GQ magazine’s article on the former San Francisco ’49ers quarterback, “Colin Kaepernick Will Not Be Silenced,” places him alongside Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson among athletes “who risked everything to make a difference.”
“In 2013, Colin Kaepernick was on the cover of this magazine because he was one of the best football players in the world,” the article opens. “In 2017, Colin Kaepernick is on GQ’s cover once again—but this time it is because he isn’t playing football.”
Kaepernick refused to be interviewed for the piece, a decision the article explains early on:
Colin also made it clear to us that he intended to remain silent. As his public identity has begun to shift from football star to embattled activist, he has grown wise to the power of his silence. It has helped his story go around the world. It has even provoked the ire and ill temper of Donald Trump. Why talk now, when your detractors will only twist your words and use them against you? Why speak now, when silence has done so much?
Instead, the piece relies on interviews with Kaepernick’s contemporaries, who discuss the football star’s impact. Filmmaker Ava DuVernay is featured, as are activists Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour; Kaepernick’s former teammate Eric Reid, the first player to join Kaepernick in his protest; and living legend Harry Belafonte.
“In my 90th year of life, to see people like Colin Kaepernick having gotten the message and carrying the cause forward is the greatest reward I could ask for,” Belafonte told the magazine. “I’m prepared to do anything it takes and whatever steps I can to support him if this insanity continues.”
Read more at GQ.