Colin Kaepernick has had one heck of a year as the NFL’s most outspoken activist.
He joins a list of athletes who have used their platform for change, among them 1968 Olympians and activists John Carlos and Tommie Smith.
Carlos and Smith are known for giving the Black Power salute after winning the gold and bronze medals respectively in the men’s 200-meter race. Their award-ceremony photo has now become an iconic image.
The former San Francisco 49er got the opportunity to sit down with Smith and Carlos recently, and shared his admiration for the men on Twitter.
“l had the honor of sitting down w John Carlos & Tommie Smith,” Kaepernick wrote. “l have admired & emulated them, raising my as both a symbol of celebrating my Blackness & acknowledging our connected struggles. Hearing them tell their stories, all I could do was listen & soak in the elders wisdom.”
Kaepernick was recently named GQ‘s Citizen of the Year for his activism and many of his friends and peers, including Ava DuVernay and J. Cole, shared stories about the athlete. His protest of the national anthem has sparked conversation around the role of athletes in activism and brought more attention to the systemic injustice Black people face in America.
Linda Sarsour, co-organizer of the Women’s March on Washington and former executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, told the publication, “I always tell Colin: ‘You are an American hero. You may not feel like a hero right now, but one day, people will realize the sacrifices that you made for so many others.’ There might even be a day when we’ll be walking down Colin Kaepernick Boulevard and people will remember what Colin Kaepernick did, just like we remember Muhammad Ali. And I truly believe that in my heart.”