NFL free agent Colin Kaepernick received an award from the ACLU for his protests against police brutality and racial injustice during NFL games -- protests which have sparked headlines and controversy.
Kaepernick, 30, made a surprise appearance at the ACLU of Southern California's Bill of Rights Dinner on Dec. 3, accepting the Eason Monroe Courageous Advocate Award for his activism, reports Fox News.
The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback had not been on the list of honorees for the dinner, which included Viola Davis, Judd Apatow, and Jane Fonda, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"We all have an obligation no matter the risk, and regardless of our reward, to stand up for our fellow men and women who are being oppressed with the understanding that human rights cannot be compromised," said Kaepernick while accepting the award.
ACLU of Southern California Executive Director Hector Villagra said that Kaepernick had taken a stand "knowing he would risk his job," reports The Washington Post.
"He has lost his job, one that he loved and was supremely talented and skilled at," said Villagra. "He took a stand knowing some would criticize him, and he has been viciously and unfairly criticized. He has been called a traitor because too many people in this country confuse dissent for disloyalty."
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," said Kaepernick in 2016, explaining his decision not to stand for the national anthem. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
Kaepernick sparked other NFL players into joining him, and there have been numerous high-profile cases of NFL players sitting or kneeling during the anthem to protest racial injustice.
President Donald Trump has commented on the protest as well, criticizing players and team owners for actions that Trump deemed "disrespectful" to the flag.
"At least 24 players kneeling this weekend at NFL stadiums that are now having a very hard time filling up," said Trump in a Nov. 28 tweet. "The American public is fed up with the disrespect the NFL is paying to our country, our flag, and our National Anthem. Weak and out of control!"
The ACLU award is not the first honor given this year to Kaepernick for his activism. Sports Illustrated selected Kaepernick as the winner for its Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, which honors athletes who have used their platform to advocate for change, reports USA Today.
Kaepernick is also reported to be on the list of finalists being considered for Time's Person of The Year for 2017. Other finalists include Trump, special counsel Robert Mueller, and the #MeToo movement raising awareness of sexual assault and harassment.