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Colin Kaepernick Is GQ Magazine’s Citizen Of The Year, J. Cole, Ava DuVernay & More Pen Tributes

Colin Kaepernick - GQ Citizen of the Year
Photo: Martin Schoeller

GQ Magazine Names Colin Kaepernick ‘Citizen Of The Year’

GQ magazine has named former NFL quarterback-turned-activist, Colin Kaepernick, as their Citizen of the Year.

J. Cole, Ava DuVernay, the iconic Harry Belafonte, and Colin’s boo, Nessa, contributed to the feature by offering rare insights into the man who stood for what’s right in spite of the consequences.

Ava DuVernay

I see what he’s done as art. I believe that art is seeing the world that doesn’t exist. A lot of people excel at creativity—making TV, movies, painting, writing books—but you can be an artist in your own life. Civil rights activists are artists. Athletes are artists. People who imagine something that is not there. I think some folks see his protests, his resistance, as not his work. Not intentional. Not strategic. Not as progressive action. As if this was just a moment that he got caught up in. This was work. This is work that he’s doing.

The last time I saw him was the night after Trump called him out at the Alabama rally. It was a really dynamic weekend. I had dinner with him and Nessa [Kaepernick’s partner]. To be able to sit with that brother on this particular day—on the day between two historic cultural moments that swirled around him—was shape-shifting for me. Being able to observe that and witness his stillness and wisdom—I’m just really honored to know him. He’s sitting there and I’m sitting there and I’m like, “Look at this brother—he’s doing better than any of us would’ve done.” A lot better. With a lot more elegance.

J. Cole

Colin and I met years ago. I am—I was—a big 49ers fan. I met him during his breakout season. I actually went to the first game he really played in, against the Jets. I just happened to be at that game. It hit another level for me the second I learned he was taking a knee. And it wasn’t just that—it was when I saw the shit he was saying in the interviews when they pressed him about it. His answers were just so clear and potent. Like, right on point. And he wasn’t backing down. And he wasn’t afraid. He was just being honest. And it didn’t seem like he was looking for attention. It caught me off guard because, you know, nothing personally against him, I just didn’t know when I met him that the person with the biggest balls in sports would be him.

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.

Continue reading on page 2.

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