San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick says he will be standing during the national anthem next season.
Kaepernick made headlines all throughout the 2016 NFL season when he started sitting during the national anthem as a means of protest against police brutality, ESPN reported. The quarterback says he will now stand during the national anthem because he does not want his method of protest to take away from the positive change he believes has been created.
According to sources, Kaepernick said the amount of national discussion on social inequality -- along with the number of athletes that joined the protest throughout the country -- affirmed the message his protest was trying to deliver.
Kaepernick began his protest in the 2016 pre-season by sitting on the bench during the national anthem. During the regular season, he started taking a knee.
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Kaepernick's protest was met with backlash from athletes and fans alike. Former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka was particularly disturbed by the quarterback's peaceful protest, calling it disrespectful.
"I think it's a problem, anybody who disrespects this country and the flag," Ditka said during a radio interview, WMAQ reported. "If they don't like the country, they don't like our flag, get the hell out, that's what I think."
"I have no respect for Colin Kaepernick, he probably has no respect for me," Ditka continued. "That's his choice. My choice is that I like this country. I respect our flag.
"And I don't see all the atrocities going on in this country that people say are going on. I see opportunities if people want to look for opportunities. Now, if they don't want to look for them, then you can find problems with anything."
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Throughout the protest, Kaepernick gave $1 million to community organizations through the Colin Kaepernick Foundation to help underprivileged people. His team matched the donations with another million. Kaepernick also gave monthly donations of $100,000 to other organizations spread throughout the country over a 10-month span.
In recognition of his actions, Kaepernick was presented with the Len Eshmont Award by his teammates. The award goes to the player who "best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of Len Eshmont, an original member of the 1946 49ers team," and is considered the highest in-house honor a 49er receive.
Kaepernick will opt out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers on March 3. He is set to become a free agent next week, ESPN reported. He said he plans to continue raising money for the underprivileged, and added that he will also continue presenting the "Know Your Rights" camp nationwide.