Colin Kaepernick has a major supporter in Beyoncé.
The superstar singer stunned the audience at the Barclays Center on Tuesday when she made a surprise appearance to present Kaepernick with Sports Illustrated’s Muhammed Ali Legacy Award, which he received after beginning the social justice protest that has swept the NFL the past two seasons.
“His message is solely focused on social injustice for historically disenfranchised people. Let’s not get that mistaken,” Beyoncé said of Kaepernick. “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m so proud and humbled to present the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award to Colin Kaepernick.”
Kaepernick then emerged onstage to a rousing ovation, and began a stirring speech in which he opened up about his motivation for taking a knee during the national anthem before games in an effort to bring forth systemic change regarding the treatment of people of color in America.
Colin Kaepernick received the Sports Illustrated’s Muhammed Ali Legacy Award Tuesday.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)
“I accept this award not for myself, but on behalf of the people,” Kaepernick told the crowd. “Because if it was not for my love of the people, I would not have protested. And if it was not for the support of the people, I would not be on this stage today.
“With or without the NFL’s platform, I will continue to work for the people, because my platform is the people,” he said.
Kaepernick went on to thank his parents, his girlfriend Nessa and several of the players who have partaken in the anthem protest, including his former San Francisco 49ers teammate Eric Reid, who was the first to join him in the movement. His speech concluded with another loud round of applause.
Beyoncé is a fan of Colin Kaepernick.
Beyoncé’s husband, rapper JAY-Z, has also been supportive of Kaepernick in recent months, as he dedicated his song “The Story of O.J.” to the quarterback at The Meadows festival in Queens in September before wearing his jersey during a “Saturday Night Live” performance two weeks later.
Kaepernick remains without an NFL job this year, one season after he began the protest.
The entire Sports Illustrated award show airs this Friday in an hour-long special on NBC Sports Network at 8 p.m. ET. Other recipients include Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, who each earned Sportsperson of the Year honors for their contributions after Hurricane Harvey.