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Today (Nov. 14), Colin Kaepernick was named Citizen Of The Year by GQ Magazine.

Though he graced the cover of this year’s issue, the New York-based men’s magazine reached out to Kaepernick’s 10 closest friends including Nessa Nitty, Ava DuVernay, and Harry Belafonte for interviews to comment on the free agent’s protests, public identity, and sacrifices.

J. Cole, who has been vocal about Colin Kaepernick’s protests via social media and concerts while on his 4YEO Tour, also had something to say:

Colin and I met years ago. I am—I was—a big 49ers fan. I met him during his breakout season. I actually went to the first game he really played in, against the Jets. I just happened to be at that game. It hit another level for me the second I learned he was taking a knee. And it wasn’t just that—it was when I saw the shit he was saying in the interviews when they pressed him about it. His answers were just so clear and potent. Like, right on point. And he wasn’t backing down. And he wasn’t afraid. He was just being honest. And it didn’t seem like he was looking for attention. It caught me off guard because, you know, nothing personally against him, I just didn’t know when I met him that the person with the biggest balls in sports would be him.

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.

You can read Colin Kaepernick’s full cover story here.

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