San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick will stand during the national anthem next year, according to sources who talked to ESPN.
Kaepernick was heavily criticized this past season when he made sitting during the national anthem a protest against police brutality and racial inequality. He received support from his NFL team and the National Football League, as well as high school and college players.
Kaepernick no longer wants his method of protest to detract from the positive change he believes has been created, sources told ESPN. He also said the amount of national discussion on social inequality — as well as support from other athletes nationwide, including NFL and NBA players — affirmed the message he was trying to deliver.
As a means of protest, he began sitting during the national anthem in the 2016 preseason before taking a knee for the final preseason contest and 16 regular-season games.
Kaepernick will opt out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers this week and become a free agent next week, sources told ESPN.
There were other steps Kaepernick took that did not receive the same amount of attention as his anthem stance.
The Colin Kaepernick Foundation pledged to give $1 million to community organizations helping underprivileged people; the San Francisco 49ers matched with another $1 million in donations. He has followed through with monthly donations of $100,000 spread out over 10 months to organizations all over the country.
Many of Kaepernick’s teammates supported the quarterback during the national debate on the subject. At the end of the season, they recognized the quarterback by giving him the Len Eshmont Award, which, according to the team, goes to the player who “best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of Len Eshmont, an original member of the 1946 49ers team.” It is the highest in-house honor a 49er can receive.
To point out the obvious, Kaepernick has a lot better chance of hooking up with another NFL team if he stops protesting and stands during the anthem. Not all teams and cities would be as tolerant of disrespecting the flag as the 49ers and San Francisco.
When he began his protest, the reasons he gave were not remotely designed to get a positive response and were, in fact, tailored to inflame an already tense situation.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Some saw his reference to police “getting away with murder” as an incitement against law enforcement officers. If that statement was designed to elicit a “positive response,” he performed as poorly in the public arena as he did on the football field.