Three years ago, during the 2016 NFL season, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem, sparking controversy across the league. His decision was in response to a series of police brutality cases, as he aimed to raise awareness around instances of racial inequality and law enforcement officials who were able to keep their jobs after being accused of killing unarmed people of color.

Since 2016, Kaepernick has not played in a single NFL game — and remains an unsigned free agent — but has continued to help oppressed communities and has won several accolades in the process.

While some athletes, celebrities and sports fans have supported Kaepernick since the start of his protests, other viewers have been quick to criticize Kaepernick’s efforts. The hip-hop and rap community has stood out as some of Kaepernick’s most influential advocates, as several well-known artists have openly sided with his message

On the track “Trauma” off of his new album “Championships,” hip-hop artist Meek Mill rhymes, “They told Kaep’ stand up if you wanna play for a team / And all his teammates ain’t saying a thing (stay woke) / If you don’t stand for nothing, you gon’ fall for something / And in the 60’s, if you kneeled, you’d prolly be killed.”

Meek Mill, along with artists like Drake and Jay-Z, have used their platform to influence both the sports and music worlds. On his second track on “Championships,” Meek Mill uses his voice to offer support to Colin Kaepernick, who has been blackballed by the NFL since he chose to kneel during the national anthem.

Meek Mill and Kaepernick both advocate for justice in today’s world, as Kaepernick sacrificed his professional sports career to raise awareness about issues of racial inequality in the United States, like mass incarceration and police brutality. However, Meek Mill isn’t the only artist to publicly support Kaepernick, as several artists have released songs in recent years to demonstrate their loyalty to the former football star.

In 2017, Sports Illustrated awarded Kaepernick the “Muhammad Ali Legacy Award,” presented by Beyoncé, for his personal sacrifice to not play and use his platform to raise money and awareness for America’s most vulnerable communities. In April, Amnesty International honored Kaepernick with the 2018 Ambassador of Conscience Award, an award that observes individuals who have worked to improve human rights using their talents to inspire others.

Most recently, Harvard University awarded Kaepernick with the 2018 W.E.B. Du Bois Medal, an honor that celebrates individuals who have made contributions to African-American history and culture through their efforts to improve human rights for all humans. Additionally, Kaepernick starred in Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign, narrating the “Dream Crazy” commercial, which aims to challenge their audience to imagine past their comfort zone in order to achieve their goals.

However, this public embracement of Kaepernick’s work has also come with controversy, as the video game Madden 19 featured “Big Bank,” a song by YG featuring Big Sean, 2 Chainz and Nicki Minaj, but decided to censor the words of Big Sean, as he included Kaepernick’s name in one of his lines.

Let’s take a closer look into the artists who have supported Kaepernick’s message by shouting him out in their songs:

Raekwon ft. G-Eazy

“Purple Brick Road”

“And this is not by accident
Anything can happen if you simply imagine it
My OG put a torch to the blunt then he's passin' it
Believe in something, stand for it, or take a knee and stand like Kaepernick
Anything to get the point across makin' a statement
You'll only go as far as you take it”

Travis Scott & Quavo

“Huncho Jack”

“Closet filled in designer (designer)
Take a knee like the 'Niners (Kaepernick)
Join the team, don't divide us (join them)
Then watch your money go higher”

Big Sean & Metro Boomin

“Savage Time”

“So understand we gon' see success,
that's inevitable (whoa)
You couldn't hold me down even if I was in federal (whoa)
You couldn't stop these plays even if I was ineligible
Kneeling like Colin Kaepernick if that shit unethical (Kap)”

YG ft. 2 Chainz, Big Sean & Nick Minaj

“Big Bank”

“I broke the curse in my family not having sh-t
I’m passionate like girls that’s after more than just cash and d-ck
Feed me to the wolves, now I lead the pack and sh-t
You boys all cap, I’m more Colin Kaepernick”

Eminem

“The Storm”

“F-ck that, this is for Colin, ball up a fist!
And keep that shit balled like Donald the b-tch!”

Miguel ft. J. Cole

“Come Through and Chill”

“In case my lack of reply had you catchin' them feelings
Know you've been on my mind like Kaepernick kneelin'
Or police killings, or Trump sayin' slick shit
Manipulatin' poor white folks because they're ignant”

Lil Wayne ft. Drake

“Family Feud (Remix)”

“Super Bowl goals
I'm at the crib with Puff, he got Kaepernick on the phone
He in a whole different mode”

Mary J. Blige ft. Kendrick Lamar

“American Skin (41 Shots)”

“These days murders keep ‘em busy Sweet blood flowed on the gurney
Yellow tape tied around the street
Colin Kaepernick was more worthy”

Miguel ft. Rick Ross

“Criminal”

“Every day she had to find a way to find a way
Self esteem is what emotions feed
Dry land and get the travel to seven seas
Kaepernick of my city lil homie take a knee”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Dec. 3 print edition. Email Brendan Duggan at [email protected]
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