Colin Kaepernick's protest is coming to an end.
The quarterback drew a lot of attention to himself last August when he sat on the bench during the national anthem for a preseason game. As Kaepernick told NFL.com at the time, he was "not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color." Kaepernick kept to his word all season long, although he later shifted his protest to taking a knee during the national anthem instead of sitting on the bench. The protest loomed over the NFL the entire season, drawing criticism from Donald Trump while he was still on the campaign trail and even taking the blame for the league's low television ratings by some. Kaepernick didn't start for the San Francisco 49ers until Week 6, yet it was nearly impossible to find any NFL player whose name appeared in headlines more over the regular season.
At the end of the season, when it was all said and done, Kaepernick's San Francisco 49ers teammates responded by awarding him with the Len Eshmont Award for best exemplifying the "inspirational and courageous play" of former 49ers great Len Eshmont. Kaepernick joined the likes of team legends Vernon Davis, Jerry Rice, Steve Young and Joe Montana to win the award. It was one of the many ways he received support from his fellow athletes, both in the NFL and NBA, throughout the season. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that in a year when politics took centerstage, Kaepernick's protest was one of the biggest, and most controversial sports stories of 2016.
Kaepernick did a lot more than just take a knee before games that didn't receive as much attention – he donated $1 million to charities that help communities through his foundation and the 49ers matched with their own $1 million donation – but he has now decided to end his protest. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Kaepernick, who will opt out of his contract to become a free agent, has decided to stand for the national anthem next season. And, to no surprise, people on social media have already begun accusing Kaepernick of being a sellout.
There are two main reasons why Kaepernick has decided to end his protest. The first is he no longer wants it to detract from the positive change he believes has been created. The second is because he believes the protest did its job by sparking a national discussion about social inequality. Whether or not you support Kaepernick's decision to take a stand against the national anthem, there is no doubt he got people talking. He was in the news cycle constantly during the NFL season even though he was on the 49ers bench until Week 6, and also made the cover of TIME magazine for "fueling a debate about privilege, pride and patriotism."