Colin Kaepernick received a top award from Amnesty International on Saturday, and took the opportunity to criticize the American criminal justice system in his acceptance speech.

Colin Kaepernick Wins Top Award from Amnesty International

The free-agent quarterback was named Amnesty’s 2018 Ambassador of Conscience, a prestigious human rights honor, for his push to end racial injustice. Kaepernick, 30, began his crusade to end inequality and oppression when he first knelt for the National Anthem during a San Francisco 49ers preseason game in August 2016. Dozens of other athletes within and outside the NFL quickly started replicating Kaepernick’s protest, and the issue of kneeling/sitting vs. standing for the anthem and flag has since become a highly polarizing one.

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Kaepernick accepted the award in Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands. The biracial athlete said he shared the prize “with all of the countless people throughout the world combating the human rights violations of police officers.”

“Racialized oppression and dehumanization is woven into the very fabric of our nation — the effects of which can be seen in the lawful lynching of black and brown people by the police, and the mass incarceration of black and brown lives in the prison industrial complex,” Kaepernick added.

President Donald Trump, his supporters and several members of his administration have been among some of the most vocal critics of the national anthem protests. Former President Barack Obama defended Kaepernick after his initial protest.

“How can you stand for the national anthem of a nation that preaches and propagates, ‘freedom and justice for all,’ that is so unjust to so many of the people living there?” Kaepernick continued.

Kaepernick has been unable to find a new team to play for since the 49ers released him after the 2016 season. He filed a grievance against all 32 NFL team owners in late 2017, accusing them of colluding to keep him out of the league.

The NFL’s ratings fell substantially during the 2017 season, and many believe this was caused in part by the wave of anthem protests and other political statements teams have recently made.

According to Fox News, the NFL has pledged to donate $90 million over the next seven years to causes related to social justice.

Per the Washington Post, Kaepernick also cited Malcolm X by asking people to “join in with anyone – I don’t care what color you are – as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth.”

Kapernick also praised his former 49ers teammate Eric Reida safety who is also currently a free agent and who joined him in protesting the anthem several times.  Reid presented Kaepernick with the award on Saturday.

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Among the previous winners of the Ambassador of Conscience award are Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who fought for girls’ education rights even after being shot by the Taliban, and former South African President and apartheid figure Nelson Mandela. 

Here are other celebrities who tweeted about Kaepernick’s speech:

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