GQ selected exiled quarterback Colin Kaepernick as its “Citizen of the Year” and put him on one of its four Men of the Year covers. Kaepernick hasn’t done full-length interviews over the past year and he didn’t give one to GQ, but he did take some cool pictures with the youth for the cover shoot and had some almost-as-cool celebrities speak up for him. That list includes Harry Belafonte, his former teammate Eric Reid, and the press-averse J. Cole, who’s been outspoken about his support for Kaepernick. J. Cole spoke about attending his first big game and growing fond of the activist. Here’s an excerpt:
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. 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! It feels like, Man, how can I stand for this thing when this country is not holding itself true to the principles it says it stands for? I feel like we’re lying. 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.
The rapper notably criticized the Ravens during an August concert in Baltimore for not signing Kaepernick. The team was reportedly thinking about grabbing the still-unemployed quarterback at the time. “The shit that’s happening here, don’t you think that somebody should risk their whole livelihood and their whole life to talk about this shit?” J. Cole said at the time. “Even if it cost them their money, their job, their life? Don’t that sound like Colin Kaepernick? Don’t that sound like what he doing?” J. Cole also urged fans to boycott the NFL back in September.
Read Cole’s full statement at GQ.