Colin Kaepernick will end his controversial stance of kneeling during the national anthem during the upcoming season, but he remains committed to the cause that prompted his actions, said a source close to the quarterback but unauthorized to speak on the record.
Kaepernick made national headlines last season when he sat during the anthem ceremony before a preseason game. He later began kneeling – teammates Eric Reid and Eli Harold joined him – to call attention to racial injustice throughout the nation. ESPN first reported that Kaepernick would stand during the anthem this season.
Kaepernick is expected to opt out of his contract with the 49ers and enter free agency next week. His decision to stand likely will be well-received by teams that are considering signing the quarterback.
San Francisco general manager John Lynch said Thursday that Kaepernick remains an option for the team in 2017 under a more modest contract. He said Kaepernick’s anthem decision did not come up during a meeting between the quarterback and team officials last month in Santa Clara.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
“I didn’t think that was important to the meeting we were having,” Lynch said. “We were having a meeting about, really, just getting to know each other. … I really enjoyed our time.”
Lynch said Kaepernick’s decision to stand won’t affect the 49ers’ analysis of him.
“I respect him for the stance that he’s taking,” Lynch said. “I don’t know if my views necessarily align with the stance he chose, but I certainly respect the right to do it and the fact that he stood up for something that’s important.”
Kaepernick has become a national symbol – positive to some, objectionable to others – since his anthem protest began, even appearing on the cover of Time magazine.
“I’m going to stand with the people that are being oppressed,” he said during one of his first news conferences after his anthem stance became public. “To me, this is something that has to change, and when there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent in this country – is representing the way that it’s supposed to – I’ll stand.”
He has donated $400,000 to like-minded causes and sponsored several “Know Your Rights” gatherings during which young people in under-served communities are taught life skills.
Kaepernick will continue those pursuits, the source said.