On Saturday, free agent NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick accepted the Ambassador of Conscience award from the Amnesty International human rights group, the highest honor the organization bestows.
“The Ambassador of Conscience award celebrates the spirit of activism and exceptional courage, as embodied by Colin Kaepernick. He is an athlete who is now widely recognized for his activism because of his refusal to ignore or accept racial discrimination,” Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International, said via the group’s official website.
Had the story been simply that, people may have exhibited whatever particular emotion they feel about Kaepernick and moved on with their lives.
But, unsurprisingly, when Kaepernick accepted the award at a ceremony in Amsterdam, he reverted to one of his favorite pastimes — antagonizing police in America.
“Racialized oppression and dehumanization is woven into the very fabric of our nation,” Kaepernick said in his acceptance speech, according to USA Today. “The effects of which can be seen in the lawful lynching of black and brown people by the police, and the mass incarceration of black and brown lives in the prison industrial complex.”
The “lawful lynching” comment in particular drew quite a bit of traction on social media. It’s a powerful phrase with strong racial connotations, and Kaepernick directed it right at police officers.
Kaepernick continued with his speech, explaining why he chose to begin kneeling during the national anthem when he was still gainfully employed by the NFL.
“How can you stand for the national anthem of a nation that preaches and propagates, ‘freedom and justice for all,’ that is so unjust to so many of the people living there?” Kaepernick asked the crowd.
Perhaps this shouldn’t be a massive surprise. Kaepernick is the same person, after all, who wore socks depicting police officers as pigs. He’s the same person who routinely attacks police on social media, often likening them to slave drivers.
A system that perpetually condones the killing of people, without consequence, doesn’t need to be revised, it needs to be dismantled! pic.twitter.com/BVVPVZIQyD
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) June 16, 2017
While it may not be completely surprising that Kaepernick used a massive international platform to accuse police of institutionalized racism, it still didn’t stop the vitriol from pouring in on social media.
This guy is crazy. Does he forget the innocent police officers killed in the line of duty? https://t.co/8JgYy2neaR
— HUGE (@Hugeshow) April 22, 2018
Lawful lynchings🤔 SMDH…since you’re taking on the cause of Brown people now…care to comment on the murder of Deputy Sheriff Sgt Noel Ramirez?
Or not…since he’s Blue before Brown?
— 🌺🎋Emersen Lee🎋🌺 (@EmersenLee) April 22, 2018
Which killings? If he’s saying they are all the same, that’s absurd. Some are justifiable, some aren’t.
— Steve Easterling (@grim_prime) April 21, 2018
The backlash was swift and loud. Many critics rightfully pointed out that being a police officer is a life-threatening vocation. Other correctly noted that Kaepernick was brushing with broad strokes by implying that all police incidents are a direct result of racism.
Perhaps, if Kaepernick truly wants to be an “Ambassador of Conscience,” he should try having an open and constructive conversation with law enforcement. You know, instead of broadly calling them racist slave drivers who exist only to oppress and lynch people of color.
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