After a year in which he dominated news coverage for not even playing the sport that made him famous, Colin Kaepernick has been named one of GQ’s Men of the Year. The ex-NFL quarterback was given the title of Citizen of the Year, primarily for his efforts to speak out against systemic racism in the U.S., a controversial stance that actually caused him to lose his starting role on the San Francisco 49ers.

Though Kaepernick did not do an actual interview for the magazine, he did participate in a photoshoot and allow some of his supporters to share their words for his featured piece. The 30-year-old still hasn’t given an on-record interview since the beginning of the 2017 season, but for this circumstance, he gave others the chance to present GQ with “some rare insights into Colin Kaepernick himself.”

Last season, Kaepernick threw for 2,241 yards and 16 touchdowns, with only four interceptions, which are easily numbers that should grant him a spot on an NFL roster. But due to his perceived “activism,” many owners have shied away from signing the controversial quarterback.

Kaepernick also filed a lawsuit earlier this season in which he claimed that the NFL was taking part in joint collusion in order to prevent any interested teams from signing him. So far, it’s been the biggest development in any capacity regarding his involvement with the league, and outside of the sport’s top owners and management, many have taken to Kaepernick’s corner and defended his rights to free speech and demonstration.

Most of this year’s ongoing controversy surrounding the kneeling protests that Kaepernick is credited (or blamed) for starting were fueled by President Donald Trump’s comments that players doing so should be “fired or suspended.” This led to the league’s single largest demonstrations during Week 3 of the NFL season, and many players have continued to remain peacefully protesting in the weeks that have followed.

Though it has been a highly debated topic as to whether Kaepernick has been outrightly “blackballed” by the NFL and its ownership, the former QB has still remained interested in re-joining the league for any team that is interested in him. Even with some organizations taking him into consideration this past offseason, no team wanted to bear the burden of the controversy that might surround his situation.

Big names continue to defend the ex-49er though, with rapper J. Cole being just one of the people who is featured in GQ’s piece. Cole spoke forcefully on the issue, saying that Kaepernick literally “sacrificed his dream” in order to bring awareness to social justice.

“You’re talking about a guy in his athletic prime, who’s lived his whole life dreaming about playing football at a level that millions of kids dream to get to,” Cole proclaims. “And in his first big season, he takes his team to within five yards of winning a Super Bowl. But then, at some point in time, he becomes conscious about what’s happening in the world. And suddenly something that he’s been doing blindly for his whole life — standing for the national anthem — now feels uncomfortable. Why? Because now it feels phony! It feels like, man, how can I stand for this thing when this country is not holding itself true to the principles it says it stands for? I feel like we’re lying. And look what happens to him. Had he not done that, this guy would be making millions of dollars right now. Period, point blank. And more important than the money, he was living his dream. He sacrificed his dream.”

Even further, 49ers safety Eric Reid, who was the first player to kneel alongside his teammate Kaepernick a season ago, says that progress has been made by shedding light on the situation, but the next step is to help him regain a position in the NFL, which gave him his career and his platform.

“My goal this year has been to get the narrative back on track. We started having communications with the NFL, and they said they’re going to help us make progress on these issues,” Reid said in his GQ spot. “But the next step is to get Colin back in the NFL. Because he’s the one that started this. I think we’re finally getting where me and Colin envision this going. Now it’s time for him to get back in the league. These issues are real, and people know they’re real. But some will do anything to distract from that, to change the narrative, and it’s gotten Colin blackballed from the NFL.”

Kaepernick is one of four names that GQ has named their Men of the Year, being joined by Kevin Durant, Gal Gadot, and Stephen Colbert.

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