Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick was among eight people saluted by Harvard University on Thursday for contributions to black history and culture.
All eight recipients of the prestigious W.E.B. Du Bois Medal were honored in a ceremony held Thursday afternoon by the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard “in recognition of their contributions to African and African American culture and the life of the mind.”
As requested by Kaepernick, his speech at the ceremony was not broadcast live (there was a live stream of the event available). In his speech, Kaepernick encouraged further protests against racial inequality.
“I feel like it’s not only my responsibility, but all our responsibilities as people that are in positions of privilege, in positions of power, to continue to fight for them and uplift them, empower them,” Kaepernick said. “Because if we don’t we become complicit in the problem.”
Here is a full transcript of his speech:
The other honorees were Dave Chappelle, comedian; Kenneth Chenault, chairman and a managing director of General Catalyst; Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Pamela Joyner, founder of Avid Partners, LLC; psychologist and author Florence Ladd; Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative; and artist Kehinde Wiley.
Past award winners include Muhammad Ali (2015) and Maya Angelou (2014).
Kaepernick — who spent six seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, including helping lead the team to Super Bowl XLVII — created a heated national debate when he began kneeling during the The Star-Spangled Banner in 2016 to protest police brutality and social injustice.
Two seasons after he began kneeling to protest police and racial injustice, Kaepernick is still out of the NFL. His actions spurred dozens of other NFL players to protest. President Donald Trump has fanned the hot-button issue and politicized the peaceful protest while deriding the NFL from his Twitter account. USA TODAY analysis of Sunday Night Football viewership revealed that player protests during the anthem have had little to no effect on the league’s TV ratings.
Kaepernick was the centerpiece of Nike’s 30th anniversary of their “Just Do It” campaign, and his efforts earned him Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience award in April.
Contributing: The Associated Press.