Colin Kaepernick will stand for the playing of the national anthem this season, ending a protest that started a national conversation and spread across multiple sports at all levels last season.
Kaepernick, who is expected to opt out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers and become a free agent Thursday, believes that his message about police brutality and social equality has accomplished his mission of starting a dialogue, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported. Kaepernick, Schefter said, no longer wants the protest to detract from what he sees as positive changes. Kaepernick's agents have not responded to a request from The Post for comment.
Kaepernick protested police brutality by remaining seated on the bench during the San Francisco 49ers' first two preseason games, a move that went unnoticed because he didn't play. By the third game, he was in uniform and conspicuous by his presence on the Niners' bench. "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," he told the NFL Network's Steve Wyche. "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."
As the season began, he switched to kneeling during the anthem, a form of protest that other NFL players and athletes in other sports adopted. "I'm going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed," he explained. "To me, this is something that has to change. When there's significant change and I feel that flag represents what it's supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way that it's supposed to, I'll stand."
Even as he received death threats, his No. 7 jersey was the NFL's sales leader as the conversation became as polarizing as the presidential election. Some teams sought to protest differently, with the Seattle Seahawks, for instance, linking arms. Along the way, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and future president Donald Trump got involved. "Maybe he should find a country that works better for him," Trump said. "Let him try. It won't happen."
He also clarified that his stand had nothing to do with the military.
"People are dying in vain because this country isn't holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody. That's something that's not happening. I've seen videos, I've seen circumstances where men and women that have been in the military have come back and been treated unjustly by the country they fought have for, and have been murdered by the country they fought for, on our land. That's not right."
Now, it isn't clear whether Kaepernick will remain in San Francisco or start over somewhere else, possibly in a place where his protest wasn't welcome and won't be forgotten.
© 2017 Associated Press