This Is What Colin Kaepernick’s Protest Means To Creatives Like Ava DuVernay, Harry Belafonte And More
Tom Szczerbowski

GQ magazine has named Colin Kaepernick their Citizen of the Year and for good reason.

The former quarterback’s National Anthem protest has sparked conversation and brought more attention to police brutality and systemic injustice against Black people, placing the issues in the homes of millions. 

While the NFL and some of its more conservative fans have been less than supportive of Kaepernick’s cause, many of his friends spoke to the men’s publication about what the former San Francisco 49er’s protest means to them. 

Director Ava DuVernay called Kaepernick’s work “art,” telling GQ, “I see what he’s done as art. I believe that art is seeing the world that doesn’t exist. A lot of people excel at creativity—making TV, movies, painting, writing books—but you can be an artist in your own life. Civil rights activists are artists. Athletes are artists.”

Rapper J. Cole, who met Kaepernick years ago, was frank about his surprise at seeing Kaepernick take a knee before realizing the power of what the quarterback was doing. Cole added that he also realized that Kaepernick was putting a lot on the line: “He sacrificed his dream.”

The piece also includes interviews with Harry Belafonte, activists Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez, and radio host/TV personality and activist Nessa Diab, who has been dating the football player for three years. 

Check out the full GQ magazine profile at

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