The longtime 49ers quarterback’s yearlong protest of the national anthem last season didn’t sit well with NFL decisionmakers.
So, Kaepernick has decided, through ESPN’s Adam Schefter, that he’ll stand for the Star Spangled Banner in the 2017 season.
Kaepernick no longer wants his method of protest to detract from the positive change that he believes has been created, sources told ESPN. He also believes 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.
That’s a departure from how he felt last August, when he explained why he was protesting in the first place.
“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.
Kaepernick later said he would continue his demonstration until he saw the problems fixed.
“I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed,” Kaepernick said a few days after his kneeling through the anthem went national. “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.”
But, now with his livelihood on the line, Kaepernick is altering his course.
And I can’t blame him for changing his tone.
What he did took incredible bravery. Kaepernick ushered in a new era for athletes — of all skill levels — to use their voices to help those who are being systematically marginalized by society. And Bay Area justice groups appreciated him for that.
Civil rights attorney John Burris told me last August that Kaepernick was more like those in the struggle because he wasn’t untouchable due to irreplaceable play on the field — like LeBron James, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade, who were the last to make a public stand for racial equality before him.
Kaepernick also could’ve coasted after raising awareness. That’s what his opponents wanted him to do. They needed him to be a troll, just trying to irritate people, to validate their takes that he was doing this for selfish reasons.
Instead, he put his money on the line by donating $1 million to organizations tasked with promoting social justice. The 49ers matched that contribution, and Kaepernick has followed through on his promise $100,000 at a time while launching a website that ensures transparency of his monthly donations.
So, let Kaepernick stand this season if it helps him get a job. Sure, the nation is probably farther away from what he envisioned when he started to take a knee. But, he’s proven his heart is in the right place, and if getting another job allows him to further his mission, that’s something that should be celebrated.
Besides, you can’t convince me there’s a better quarterback available in free agency.