Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who remains unemployed due (at least in part) to his protest of systemic racism during the national anthem, is GQ's 2017 Citizen of the Year.
Kaepernick, 30, did not speak to the magazine for an on-record interview but did pose for photographs and helped provide GQ with confidantes to offer "some rare insights into Colin Kaepernick himself." He also tweeted out the cover story and said he was "honored" to be included:
Kaepernick has not given an on-record interview during the entire 2017 NFL season despite still being at the center of one of the year's biggest controversies.
Aside from his activism, the quarterback's most notable action this year was filing a federal lawsuit against the NFL claiming the league colluded to not sign him. Kaepernick threw for 2,241 yards and 16 touchdowns against four interceptions in 2016, numbers that would make him an improvement over many quarterback situations around the NFL.
Eric Reid, the San Francisco 49ers safety who was the first player to kneel alongside his former teammate, said his hope is to get Kaepernick back in the NFL.
"My goal this year has been to get the narrative back on track," Reid told GQ. "We started having communications with the NFL, and they said they're going to help us make progress on these issues. But the next step is to get Colin back in the NFL. Because he's the one that started this. I think we're finally getting where me and Colin envision this going. Now it's time for him to get back in the league.
"These issues are real, and people know they're real. But some will do anything to distract from that, to change the narrative, and it's gotten Colin blackballed from the NFL."
National anthem protests have been one of the prevailing narratives of the 2017 NFL season, especially after President Donald Trump called on those kneeling to be "fired or suspended." The president's outcry led to the largest protest among NFL players in Week 3, and hundreds of players have knelt during the anthem throughout the campaign.
Rapper J. Cole put his thoughts on Kaepernick's mindset in an extended quote to GQ:
You're talking about a guy in his athletic prime, who's lived his whole life dreaming about playing football at a level that millions of kids dream to get to. And in his first big season, he takes his team to within five yards of winning a Super Bowl. But then, at some point in time, he becomes conscious about what's happening in the world.
And suddenly something that he's been doing blindly for his whole life—standing for the national anthem—now feels uncomfortable. Why? Because now it feels phony! It feels like, Man, how can I stand for this thing when this country is not holding itself true to the principles it says it stands for? I feel like we're lying. And look what happens to him. Had he not done that, this guy would be making millions of dollars right now. Period, point blank. And more important than the money, he was living his dream. He sacrificed his dream.
Kaepernick has maintained he wants to continue his NFL career and has stayed in playing condition. The Seattle Seahawks and Baltimore Ravens are the only teams that seriously considered signing Kaepernick during the offseason. Both teams signed quarterbacks with far lesser resumes than Kaepernick.