Controversial former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick will be awarded an honorary degree this Saturday during Morgan State University’s commencement ceremony.
As it is customary for colleges and universities to honor people who symbolically embody values held by the university, Morgan State University said Kaepernick, along with education equity advocate David Burton and filmmaker David E. Talbert, will receive degrees as “vanguards of social justice and the African-American experience.”
Kaepernick made headlines in 2016 when he knelt during the playing of the national anthem in a self-proclaimed symbolic statement against racial oppression, specifically involving police violence against black people.
“Leadership, Integrity, Innovation, Diversity, Excellence and Respect … represent the embodiment of who we are and what a Morgan graduate stands for,” Morgan State University President David Wilson said in a statement. “We have assembled a trio of diverse voices who have bravely stood — and kneeled — for the betterment and advancement of the voiceless, the marginalized and the disenfranchised.”
In announcing the honorary degrees, the historically black college in Baltimore called the recipients “trailblazers within their respective fields and causes.”
In April, Kaepernick announced he was looking for a way back into the NFL, even if it was via the “door” of being a backup quarterback.
"I know I have to find my way back in," he said on an episode of the I Am Athlete podcast. "Yeah, if I have to come in as a backup, that's fine. But that's not where I'm staying. And when I prove that I'm a starter, I want to be able to step on the field as such."
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Kaepernick, who has been a free agent since 2017, when he opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers, said he still has “unfinished business” in the league.
In 2017, former President Donald Trump called on NFL leaders to “fire” players who, like Kaepernick, choose to kneel during the national anthem.
Morgan State University will award Kaepernick with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Burton will receive the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, while Talbert will receive an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts.
Talbert was previously announced as the commencement’s keynote speaker.
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Morgan State University's commencement will take place May 21 at Hughes Memorial Stadium.