The last time Colin Kaepernick made the cover of GQ it was 2013 and he was an elite quarterback who had just recently taken the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl. It is now four years later and Kaerpernick is an unemployed but still elite quarterback whose taking the NFL into the 21st century. So it's fitting that he returns to the cover, named a 2017 Man of Year and the magazine's 2017 Citizen of the Year.
GQ unveiled the cover this morning, which features Kaepernick in all-black with a thin gold chain laying around his neck, his afro in all its glory. Shot by world-famous photographer Martin Schoeller in Harlem, Kaepernick also appears in the magazine with his fist raised and his hair braided into cornrows, images that GQ says are meant to evoke the spirit of important athletes like Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson.
In the cover story for the issue, titled "Colin Kaepernick Will Not Be Silenced," people like filmmaker Ava DuVernay, activist Carmen Perez, rapper J. Cole, and the legendary Harry Belafonte speak on the importance of Kaepernick's protest and why he qualifies as an "American hero."
"In my 90th year of life, to see people like Colin Kaepernick having gotten the message and carrying the cause forward is the greatest reward I could ask for," said Belafonte. "Colin is a remarkable young man. The fact that he spoke out on police brutality against young black men—I thought it was absolutely admirable. I'm prepared to do anything it takes and whatever steps I can to support him if this insanity continues."
The typically press-averse J. Cole stepped in to offer poignant commentary on his act of protest, as well. "You're talking about a guy in his athletic prime, who's lived his whole life dreaming about playing football at a level that millions of kids dream to get to. And in his first big season, he takes his team to within five yards of winning a Super Bowl. But then, at some point in time, he becomes conscious about what's happening in the world," Cole said.
"And suddenly something that he's been doing blindly for his whole life—standing for the national anthem—now feels uncomfortable. Why? Because now it feels phony!," he emphasized. "And look what happens to him. Had he not done that, this guy would be making millions of dollars right now."
"Period, point blank. And more important than the money, he was living his dream. He sacrificed his dream."
Kap said on Instagram that he was "honored" to have been chosen as Man Of The Year. Physical copies of the magazine will hit stands tomorrow, but you can see the images and read the cover story right now on GQ's website.