The long history of the GQ Citizen of the Year award dates back to about 24 hours ago. There’s not a single mention of this named award anywhere to be found before GQ made a big publicity splash by naming Colin Kaepernick their winner. Kaepernick didn’t even agree to an interview. Though he did cozy up to one styling sweet fro-photo for the cover. He even agreed to do it in Harlem, because he’s from Wisconsin.
Kaepernick’s selection for a made-up award is hardly surprising. This isn’t Life magazine in the 1930’s. This is a dying magazine business in 2017 working any angle it can find to first, generate publicity, and second, win kudos from like minded New York editors who share their same favorite Starbucks.
Much has changed in the four years since Colin Kaepernick was last on the cover of GQ. Back then he was a rippling superhero of a quarterback on the rise. But a simple act—kneeling during the national anthem—changed everything. It cost him his job. It also transformed Colin Kaepernick into a lightning rod and a powerful symbol of activism and resistance.
Yeah, but not really. There are some fringe activist groups still rallying around Kaepernick. Also that part about his kneeling costing him his job is not exactly accurate. Even though it’s never reported, Kaepernick opted out of player-option season with the Niners this year to test the free agency market where he expected to find a starting job. In fact, he insisted on a starting job. But the completely subjective portion of the GQ rationale seems fine. It’s your award, give it to whomever you want. You don’t have to lie about the facts.
Naturally, the portion of America who lives more than two blocks from both a juice bar and a Bikram yoga salon expressed some outrage over the selection. Which again, is kind of silly, since this is the periodical version of a teen daughter dating a loser on a motorbike so her parents will finally pay her attention.
ESPN reporter Britt McHenry, who’s blond and attractive and therefore allowed to express traditional viewpoints without being fire, laid into the selection:
“Wear socks depicting police officers as pigs; wear Fidel Castro as a fashion statement IN MIAMI; sue NFL for collusion when gf compares owners to slave owners… Win Citizen of the Year. Serve in the US Military…nothing. What a joke, GQ. #Kaepernick.”
McHenry and tons others pointed out how J.J. Watt raised $37 million for Hurricane Harvey relief without so much as asking for a second of personal publicity. McHenry also pointed out black players in the NFL who had engaged in official detente meetings with local police to discuss the friction to whom nobody gives credit.
Much like that time ESPN gave their Arthur Ashe Courage Award to Caitlyn Jenner for getting fake breasts rather than that college athlete who raised money for cancer from her deathbed — let it go. This is like railing at department stores for turning Christmas into a commercial spectacle rather than celebrating the birth of Jesus. Or reminding a Hollywood actress she went up to that producer’s hotel room knowing full well what the deal was. Pointless tilting at windmills.
GQ print will be gone soon and at some point, GQ the brand will dissolve altogether. Not because they chose a trite and obvious celebrity to cynically lionize, but because evolution dictates that effeminate men into belts will perish from the stock and their natural audience will be gone.