ESPN hosts Max Kellerman and Stephen A. Smith both shared praise for Colin Kaepernick during First Take’s coverage of the release of GQ’s latest cover bearing the former NFL star’s face in acknowledgment of him having been named the publication’s “Citizen of the Year” on Monday, November 13.

Kellerman took the topic from facilitator Molly Qerim first, calling the honor in Kaepernick’s name “richly deserved.” But before the boxing analyst-turned-network host closed out the segment with a statement on the patriotic nature of the protest, he lent the floor to Smith, who reflected on the social significance of what Kaepernick has been able to do in retrospect.

“In this nation that we live in, it’s always a beautiful thing, even if someone appears divisive, it’s always a beautiful thing to challenge the culture, challenge the conscience of America, thereby reminding us of what we are supposed to be as a gorgeous mosaic that exists in the world that we live in,” Smith said. “If there’s anybody that’s personified that in the world of sports, it is Colin Kaepernick.”

Smith went on to acknowledge that Kaepernick’s stance was just as constructive an exercise of freedom for his critics as it was for his supporters, stating: “If you oppose him, you’re forced to ask yourself why. By asking yourself why, you are forced to be introspective and look at yourself, what you stand for, what your belief system is.”

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