Professional quarterback Colin Kaepernick has announced that he will stand during the National Anthem next season, ending his now famous ongoing protest.
Kaepernick decided to abandon the protest in the upcoming 2017 season because he feels it may be a distraction from the positive changes his efforts have already created, sources told ESPN. Kaepernick said he believes the level of attention being paid to the issue of racial inequality in society shows that his message was delivered.
Sources also told ESPN that Kaepernick would be opting out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers this week to become a free agent.
During the 2016 preseason, Kaepernick began sitting out the national anthem before each game as a means of protesting racial inequality. As the regular season began, Kaepernick changed his protest to kneeling instead of sitting as a way to continue voicing his concerns while also showing respect for members of the military.
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Kaepernick received a vocal mix of support and opposition for his protest, some calling it disrespectful while others felt it was an important statement. The decision to end that same protest is already receiving an equally mixed reception.
"I support Kaepernick in standing next [season] during the Anthem. You woke up a nation. Job well done! Now go play football." One Twitter user wrote, voicing support for Kaepernick's decision.
"#Kaepernick says he WILL stand for the Anthem next season? How interesting... Why wouldn't you use an umbrella now that it's really raining?" Another user tweeted.
"Rather than him talking about [standing] for the national anthem, I'd appreciate it if he went out and said 'I'm gonna vote next time.' That would resonate far more profoundly with me," said Stephen A. Smith, a commentator for ESPN.
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Smith added, "But because he didn't vote and because he's flip-flopped on the whole national anthem issue, and because of the timing of it all, as it appears to be flagrantly opportunistic, I'm not buying it one bit. And more importantly, I don't give a damn. I don't care if he stands or sits for the national anthem, it means nothing to me. What he needs to do is announce to the world and the kids out there that he's going to exercise his right to vote."
Kaepernick also pledged to donate one million dollars over a ten month period to charities that support communities in need as part of his efforts to create change.