Time Magazine has published its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world — the Time 100 — for 18 years. Over that time the magazine has recognized a wide range of individuals as titans, pioneers, artists, leaders and icons for enacting change in the world, good or bad.
This year, for the first time ever, a native of Turlock has made the list with Colin Kaepernick’s inclusion in the 2017 Icons category alongside notables such as Congressman John Lewis, writer Margaret Atwood and actress Viola Davis.
Unlike other athletes on the list such as LeBron James and Tom Brady, who were recognized as Titans of their respective sports, Kaepernick was selected to the Time 100 for his string of silent protests against racial inequality that played out during the 2016 NFL season. Refusing to stand during the National Anthem before each game, Kaepernick was harshly criticized by many for his mode of protest. He was also met with support, however, as players from across the league, athletes from different sports and figures from various arenas joined him in protest throughout the year.
Still, his protests did not come without consequences. After being released by the San Francisco 49ers at the conclusion of the 2016 season, Kaepernick’s NFL career is in a current state of limbo, with many considering him to be a victim of “blackballing” due to his political stance.
Former 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh addressed this in his written introduction of Kaepernick for the Time 100.
“At times in our nation's history, we have been all too quick to judge and oppose our fellow Americans for exercising their First Amendment right to address things they believe unjust,” Harbaugh wrote.
“I thank Colin for all he has contributed to the game of football as an outstanding player and trusted teammate. I also applaud Colin for the courage he has demonstrated in exercising his guaranteed right of free speech. His willingness to take a position at personal cost is now part of our American story.”
Once seen as an athlete first and anything else second, Kaepernick’s spot on the Time 100 is a reflection of the dialogue and discussion his silent protests sparked across the country in 2016 and how he transformed himself into a figurehead for social change.
To this point Harbaugh concluded, “How lucky for us all and for our country to have among our citizens someone as remarkable as Colin Kaepernick.”