Morgan State will honor former NFL quarterback and civil rights activist Colin Kaepernick with an honorary degree during Saturday’s spring commencement ceremony.
Kaepernick, 34, played six seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, starting 58 games while throwing for 12,271 yards with 72 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. Kaepernick, who holds the NFL record for most rushing yards in a playoff game by a quarterback (181), guided the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII, where they lost to the Ravens.
In 2016, Kaepernick, a former second-round NFL draft pick, sparked a league-wide protest against racial injustice and police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem. Kaepernick’s protest faced a wide range of criticism, with some praising the former Nevada football star and others denouncing the protest, believing it disgraced the military.
Former President Donald Trump said in 2017 that league owners should fire players who refuse to stand for the national anthem.
Kaepernick has not played since the 2016 season, when he threw for 2,241 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions in 12 games (11 starts) for San Fransisco. In November 2017, Kaepernick filed a grievance against the NFL and its owners, accusing them of colluding to keep him out of the league. After reaching a confidential settlement in 2019, he withdrew the grievance, yet he still remains unsigned.
Amid the George Floyd protests in 2020, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell supported players that wanted to kneel during the anthem after previously requiring players to “stand and show respect for the flag” or face team fines.
Off the field, Kaepernick has founded and helped to fund three organizations, Know Your Rights Camp, Ra Vision Media and Kaepernick Publishing to advance the liberation of Black and Brown people through storytelling, systems change and political education.
In 2021, he released “Colin in Black & White,” a six-episode limited series on Netflix exploring his high school years and experiences that led him to become an activist. He recently became a New York Times best-selling author for his children’s book “I Color Myself Different.”
During an interview on the “I Am Athlete” podcast, Kaepernick continued to express his interest in returning to the NFL, even in a backup role.
“I just need that opportunity to walk through the door,” he said.
In addition to Kaepernick, education advocate David Burton and filmmaker David Talbert were selected to receive degrees.