Morgan State University will award former NFL quarterback and social justice advocate Colin Kaepernick an honorary degree during its upcoming spring commencement.
In a statement Tuesday, the Maryland HBCU announced that Kaepernick, along with filmmaker David E. Talbert and businessman David Burton were selected as “three exemplary vanguards of social justice and the African-American experience,” according to a statement. Talbert and Burton are alumni of the university.
Kaepernick, who played for the San Francisco 49ers for six years, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. He is widely-recognized for famously taking a knee during the national anthem to protest against racial injustice and police brutality. He last played in the NFL in 2016.
As a result of his protest, Kaepernick went unsigned after 2016 and has been steadily working toward finding employment in the league, CBS Baltimore reported. While awaiting employment, Kaepernick has founded and helped fund three organizations—Know Your Rights Camp, Ra Vision Media, and Kaepernick Publishing—”that together advance the liberation of Black and Brown people through storytelling, systems change, and political education,” according to Morgan State.
In addition, the Super Bowl quarterback is an award-winning writer and champion for social justice. He won two NAACP Image Awards for Colin in Black & White, a six-episode limited series on Netflix exploring his high school years. In 2022, Kaepernick became a New York Times bestselling author for his children’s picture book, I Color Myself Different.
“Leadership, integrity, innovation, diversity, excellence, and respect are more than just words that appear on the flags that adorn our campus, or words that we utter casually when reciting our core values, they represent the embodiment of who we are and what a Morgan graduate stands for,” university president David K. Wilson said.
He added: “With this notion in mind, we intentionally sought a collection of individuals who truly embody these principles, and thankfully 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.”
Talbert, class of 1989, has written and produced 14 national tours along with dozens of writing credits, including novels, plays, and films. While remaining connected to his alma mater, the award-winning filmmaker is set to be awarded a Doctor of Fine Arts degree.
Additionally, Burton, class of 1967, is the founder and CEO of the Diverse Manufacturing Supply Chain Alliance. He currently serves on the advisory board of Morgan State University’s Supply Chain Management and Information Systems Department. He will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
The 145th spring commencement ceremony will take place on Saturday, May 21 at Hughes Memorial Stadium.