Colin Kaepernick named Sports Illustrated's 'Muhammad Ali Legacy Award' recipient for 2017 despite remaining UNSIGNED since March

  • Beginning in 2016, Kaepernick popularized peaceful protests around the NFL in which players raised awareness of inequality and police brutality against minorities by sitting, kneeling, or raising a fist during the national anthem
  • Kaepernick was previously named GQ's 'Citizen of the Year'?after donating $900K of his $1 million pledge to organizations in oppressed communities
  • Despite a series of injuries and poor play among NFL quarterbacks this season, Kaepernick has remained unsigned and has filed a lawsuit against the NFL, accusing all 32 owners of conspiring to prevent him from returning to the league
  • Kaepernick helped guide the 49ers to two NFC championship games and one Super Bowl while completing 59.8 percent of his passes and adding 72 TDs
  • SI executive editor: 'The Muhammad Ali Legacy Award is given to those who make the world a better place...?That fact that he hasn't played in a game actually shows what he has sacrificed for standing up for what he believes'
  • Kaepernick and other protesting players have drawn criticism from President Donald Trump, who referred to them as 'sons of b******' ?

Despite not having played all season, embattled free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick added another accolade on Thursday as Sports Illustrated named him the magazine's Muhammad Ali Legacy Award recipient.

The Legacy Award is given annually to sports figures who have used their platform to promote social change. Kaepernick is expected to attend SI's 'Sportsperson of the Year' awards show on Tuesday in New York.

Kaepernick was previously named GQ's 'Citizen of the Year' for his role in popularizing peaceful protests around the NFL in which players raised awareness of inequality and police brutality against minorities by sitting, kneeling, or raising a fist during the national anthem.

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Colin Kaepernick (No. 7) and 49ers safety Eric Reid (No. 39) kneel during the national anthem

Colin Kaepernick (No. 7) and 49ers safety Eric Reid (No. 39) kneel during the national anthem

Once known for guiding the San Francisco 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII, where they lost to the Baltimore Ravens, Kaepernick has become synonymous with social justice. To date, Kaepernick has donated $900K of his $1 million pledge to organizations working within oppressed communities.

He also launched the 'Know Your Rights Camp,' which is a campaign Kaepernick funded to 'raise awareness on higher education, self-empowerment, and instruction to properly interact with law enforcement in various scenarios,' according to the organization's website.

Recently Kaepernick spent Thanksgiving with Native Americans on Alcatraz, honoring whose who occupied for the island for 19 months between 1969 and 1971 in an effort to compel the United States government to honor the Treaty of Fort Laramie.?

Despite a series of injuries and general poor play among NFL quarterbacks this season, Kaepernick has remained unsigned since he opted out of his contract in March. Consequently, the 30-year old has filed a lawsuit against the NFL, accusing all 32 owners of conspiring to prevent him from returning to the league in retaliation for igniting the controversial protests.

In six seasons, Kaepernick helped guide the 49ers to two NFC championship games and one?Super Bowl while completing 59.8 percent of his passes and 72 touchdown passes. He also threw only 30 interceptions over that time, helping him to post a very respectable quarterback rating of 88.9.

KAEPERNICK TO RETURN TO AN NFL FIELD - ON FORMER TEAMMATE'S SPIKES

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Embattled free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick isn't returning to the NFL quite yet, but his name and image will be on the field in Nashville this Sunday thanks to Tennessee Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews.

Matthews, a former college teammate of Kaepernick's at Nevada, will take part in the NFL's 'My Cause, My Cleats' campaign by donning a pair of spikes with the former San Francisco 49ers star's name and likeness, he announced Wednesday on Instagram.

'I dont have a foundation so [I] have chosen to support my brother @kaepernick7 foundation @yourrightscamp for #MyCauseMyCleats,' Matthews wrote of Kaepernick, who has remained unsigned since opting out of his contract with the 49ers in March.

The 'Know Your Rights Camp' is a campaign that Kaepernick funded to 'raise awareness on higher education, self empowerment, and instruction to properly interact with law enforcement in various scenarios,' according to the organization's website.

Tennessee Titans WR Rishard Matthews

Tennessee Titans WR Rishard Matthews

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and injured Green Bay Packers signal caller Aaron Rodgers have both stated they believe Kaepernick has the ability to continue starting in the NFL. Brady declined to say whether or not Kaepernick is being blackballed, but Rodgers told ESPN that the protests are likely the only reason he's not in the NFL.?

'He has paid the ultimate sacrifice in order to bring true everyday issues to light,' Kaepernick's former collegiate teammate at Nevada and current Tennessee Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews wrote on Instagram.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will be deposed as part of Kaepernick's collusion case against the football league.?

The Commissioner, several owners and at least two?NFL executives will have to turn over cellphone records and emails in relation to the case, a legal insider told ESPN.

NFL owners who will be deposed include Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, New England's Robert Kraft, Bob McNair of the Houston Texans, Seattle's Paul Allen and San Francisco's Jed York.

The owners were selected based on their public statements about Kaepernick or players protesting during the pre-game national anthem.

Along with Goodell, league executives who will be disposed include Vincent and senior vice president of player engagement Arthur McAfee, the insider told ESPN.

Recently Kaepernick's attorney Mark Geragos predicted his client's imminent return to the NFL.?

'I think within the next 10 days somebody will sign him,' Garagos told the Adam Carolla podcast?in late October. 'I think somebody's gonna sign him. I think the NFL has to come to their senses, and realize every day that goes by just proves the collusion case even more.'

According to the lawsuit, '[The owners] have colluded to deprive Mr. Kaepernick of employment rights in retaliation for Mr. Kaepernick's leadership and advocacy for equality and social justice and his bringing awareness to peculiar institutions still undermining racial equality in the United States.'

At 30, Kaepernick is the youngest recipient of the award, which began in 2008. Other recipients have included Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Los Angeles Lakers legend and HIV activist Ervin 'Magic' Johnson. Last year the honor was shared by former Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Cleveland Browns legend Jim Brown, and former Boston Celtics center and coach Bill Russell, all of whom have been active proponents of civil rights.

Kaepernick was previously named GQ's 'Citizen of the Year' for donating $900K to charity

Kaepernick was previously named GQ's 'Citizen of the Year' for donating $900K to charity

In six seasons, Kaepernick helped guide the 49ers to two NFC championship games and one Super Bowl while completing 59.8 percent of his passes and adding 72 touchdown passes

In six seasons, Kaepernick helped guide the 49ers to two NFC championship games and one Super Bowl while completing 59.8 percent of his passes and adding 72 touchdown passes

City Council Members, including Jumaane Williams (center right) and Melissa Mark-Viverto (center left) 'take a knee' on the steps of City Hall in reaction to President Donald Trump's condemnation of NFL players who do the same on September 27, 2017 in New York City

City Council Members, including Jumaane Williams (center right) and Melissa Mark-Viverto (center left) 'take a knee' on the steps of City Hall in reaction to President Donald Trump's condemnation of NFL players who do the same on September 27, 2017 in New York City

A coalition of advocacy groups 'take a knee' outside of a hotel where  the quarterly NFL league meetings were held on October 17, 2017 in Manhattan?

A coalition of advocacy groups 'take a knee' outside of a hotel where the quarterly NFL league meetings were held on October 17, 2017 in Manhattan?

Lonnie Ali, the wife of Muhammad until his death in 2016, helped decide this year's recipient.

'I am proud to be able to present this year's SI Muhammad Ali Legacy Award to Colin Kaepernick for his passionate defense of social justice and civil rights for all people,' Lonnie Ali said in a statement.

'Like Muhammad, Colin is a man who stands on his convictions with confidence and courage, undaunted by the personal sacrifices he has had to make to have his message heard. He has used his celebrity and philanthropy to benefit some of our most vulnerable community members.'

Muhammad Ali was outspoken in his criticism of racism and the Vietnam War during the 1960s and was stripped of his heavyweight title in 1966 refused to be inducted into the armed forces. Ali was denied a boxing license in every state and was out of boxing from 1967 until 1970, when he should have been entering his prime.

Ali would go on to reclaim the heavyweight title with an upset of George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire in 1974.

Steve Cannella, Sports Illustrated executive editor: 'The Muhammad Ali Legacy Award is given to those who make the world a better place...?There will never be another Muhammad Ali, but you can see the echoes of [Ali] in what Colin has done over the last 12 to 15 months'

Steve Cannella, Sports Illustrated executive editor: 'The Muhammad Ali Legacy Award is given to those who make the world a better place...?There will never be another Muhammad Ali, but you can see the echoes of [Ali] in what Colin has done over the last 12 to 15 months'

Former Boston Celtics center and coach Bill Russell

Cleveland Browns legend Jim Brown (left) and former Boston Celtics center and coach Bill Russell (right) shared the Muhammad Ali Legacy award with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar last year

Former Cleveland Browns Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown presides over a meeting of top African-American athletes on June 4, 1967, to show support for boxer Muhammad Ali's refusal to fight in Vietnam. Those present are: (front row) Bill Russell, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; (back row) Carl Stokes, Walter Beach, Bobby Mitchell, Sid Williams, Curtis McClinton, Willie Davis, Jim Shorter, and John Wooten. Abdul-Jabbar shared the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award with Brown and Russell last year.?

Former Cleveland Browns Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown presides over a meeting of top African-American athletes on June 4, 1967, to show support for boxer Muhammad Ali's refusal to fight in Vietnam. Those present are: (front row) Bill Russell, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; (back row) Carl Stokes, Walter Beach, Bobby Mitchell, Sid Williams, Curtis McClinton, Willie Davis, Jim Shorter, and John Wooten. Abdul-Jabbar shared the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award with Brown and Russell last year.?

'The Muhammad Ali Legacy Award is given to those who make the world a better place,' Steve Cannella, Sports Illustrated executive editor, told USA TODAY Sports. 'The fact Colin hasn't played this year or been on the field doesn't disqualify him. That fact that he hasn't played in a game actually shows what he has sacrificed for standing up for what he believes. There will never be another Muhammad Ali, but you can see the echoes of [Ali] in what Colin has done over the last 12 to 15 months.'

Sports Illustrated does expect some backlash over the award.

President Donald Trump referred to protesting players ?as 'sons of b******' and accused them of disrespecting the flag and American veterans. He also attributed the NFL's declining television ratings to the protests, although the evidence of that is somewhat speculative as ratings have been declining throughout broadcast television in recent years.?

'We expect reaction with everything we do,' Cannella explained. 'That's just the modern political landscape we are in. I don't know if there will be a backlash, but we do expect a reaction. Do I expect some to disagree with the decision? Sure.'?

Recently Kaepernick spent Thanksgiving with Native Americans on Alcatraz, honoring whose who occupied for the island for 19 months between 1969 and 1971 in an effort to compel the United States government to honor the Treaty of Fort Laramie

Recently Kaepernick spent Thanksgiving with Native Americans on Alcatraz, honoring whose who occupied for the island for 19 months between 1969 and 1971 in an effort to compel the United States government to honor the Treaty of Fort Laramie

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