It’s November, and that means numerous media outlets will be starting to look back at 2017 and all of the events and people that shaped the year and drove discussion.
Men’s magazine GQ is one of the first to do so, going a slightly different route with its 22nd annual “Man of the Year” selections – the publication announced three men and one woman on Monday, using four categories. Actress Gal Godot is named “Wonder Woman of the Year,” late-night host Stephen Colbert is “Bad Hombre of the Year” and two athletic stars garnered the final two: NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant is “Champion of the Year,” and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is the publication’s “Citizen of the Year.”
“He’s been vilified by millions and locked out of the NFL—all because he took a knee to protest police brutality,” GQ editors wrote in an article about him, “Colin Kaepernick will not be silenced,” begins. “But Colin Kaepernick’s determined stand puts him in rare company in sports history: Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson—athletes who risked everything to make a difference.”
While so many have demanded that he do a splashy interview with one of sports media’s big names to promise that he really does love football and really does want to play and really can put football first over his activism and whatever other demands they feel they can make of a grown man that they haven’t made of other NFL players who are not currently employed, Kaepernick has largely stayed silent.
He did, however, actively work with GQ on this project, though he wasn’t quoted: he got some of his closest friends and advisers, from acclaimed filmmaker Ava DuVernay to legendary actor Harry Belafonte to his former 49ers teammate Eric Reid to his longtime girlfriend, Nessa, and others to speak on his behalf.
Kaepernick wanted to reclaim the narrative of his protest, the magazine explained, because while he enjoys his silence, he also understands that “silence creates a vacuum, and that if it doesn’t get filled somehow, someone else will fill it for him,” the magazine’s editorial team writes.
The 30-year-old did pose for photographs: on his cover, his afro is resplendent, and he’s wearing a black turtleneck and black leather blazer, a gold chain and pendant over the turtleneck. He’s staring straight ahead; his eyes look sad. In another, he wears a colorful dashiki, a garment with roots in West Africa and worn in other parts of the continent, and is surrounded by dozens of men, women and children.
Belafonte, who was one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s confidants during the Civil Rights movement, said, “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. Colin is a remarkable young man. The fact that he spoke out on police brutality against young black men—I thought it was absolutely admirable. I’m prepared to do anything it takes and whatever steps I can to support him if this insanity continues.”
GQ named another NFL quarterback, Tom Brady, among its men of the year in 2015.
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