Colin Kaepernick was the surprise honoree at an ACLU gathering in Beverly Hills, honored with the Bill of Rights award.

The former NFL and Nevada Wolf Pack quarterback surprised the crowd in Los Angeles when he received the award. He wasn't originally on the guest list but still gave a brief speech. 

"We must confront systemic oppression like we would a disease, treat it confront it and defeat it," says Kaepernick 

The star-studded event included Hollywood legends and civil rights icons, but the ACLU of Southern California says it kept Kaepernick's attendance a secret over concerns for his safety.

The former 49ers quarterback has received death threats since he started taking a knee during the national anthem to protest racial inequality. His "take a knee" movement has been controversial-- recently drawing the ire of veterans, patriots...and President Trump.

(CBS contributed to this report.)