Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills, whose pregame kneeling during the National Anthem has turned him into one of the country’s most visible human-rights activists, on Thursday received his first major award: “Luminary Icon” from LGBTQ-rights group SAVE.
“I’m honored to receive this award from SAVE. I’m proud to be a part of the Dolphins organization and appreciate them for recognizing the importance of these issues,” said Stills during a sold-out SAVE reception at Bacardi USA headquarters in Coral Gables — a soiree sponsored in part by the Dolphins organization, which actively supports SAVE’s mission for LGBTQ equality.
“I decided to protest in 2016 because I was feeling helpless and somebody needed to do something. I saw what [former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin] Kaepernick was doing with his protest and I saw that as a way for me to get involved,” Stills told the cheering crowd of about 200. “I thought a lot about it. I prayed on it. And I knew it was my time. I didn’t want to look back at this period of my life and regret not getting involved in activism and letting people know this wasn’t OK.”
Stills, who says the SAVE Luminary award is the first community honor he’s ever received, then spoke plainly to the mostly LGBTQ audience:
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“I connect deeply with SAVE’s mission and I realize it doesn’t matter which specific group you’re fighting for, that everyone deserves equality, everyone deserves safety, and everyone deserves to be able to live their lives free of hate, fear and discrimination.”
The annual Luminary Awards are given to “young professionals for their contributions toward equality,” according to SAVE.
This year’s fellow honorees:
- John Byrne, founder and owner of political news site RawStory.com, who recently launched Prevention305, a nonprofit focused on raising awareness and access to PrEP, the once-a-day pill that prevents HIV. “In our first seven months, we’ve gotten 120 people on PrEP,” Byrne told SAVE attendees.
- NBC 6 reporter Jamie Guirola, who while reporting on Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina, sent a recorded video message to Bacardi headquarters. “It’s ironic to me that somebody who was bullied and in the closet back in the day, back in high school, that today people consider me a voice for equality. I try to do the best I can. I have to be objective in my job so I can’t politically active, but I can do my best to make sure that the LGBTQ community is represented on air and online at NBC 6.”
- Former SAVE field director Charo Valero, now with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Rights. “SAVE is the place where I came out, SAVE is the first place I didn’t have to wear a skirt to go to a job interview, it was the first place where I came into my organizing. It’s were I really embraced my queerness. … Where I met my beautiful wife (Miami-Dade environmental activist Pamela Sweeney). Where I met all my amazing friends. Where I grew in my activism and where I really feel like I was anchored unapologetically in my politics which catapulted me to where I am now.”
- Miami immigration attorney Patricia Hernandez, who won a popular vote “People’s Luminary Award”: “I will continue to fight for undocumented immigrants because I was an undocumented immigrant a long, long time ago. I know how hard it is. And I will continue the fight for LGBTQ asylum seekers.”
In addition to the Dolphins, the SAVE Luminary Awards are sponsored by AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Miami law firm Bilzin Sumberg and Airbnb.