NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick will reportedly stand during the National Anthem this season, ending his controversial protest of inequality in the United States, according to ESPN.
The San Francisco 49er took a knee while the anthem played during the 2016 preseason and continued his symbolic protest throughout all 16 regular season games.
"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 after the first game in which he sat. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” he added.
Sources close to Kaepernick say that he no longer wants the protest to get in the way of the positive change and awareness he believes he created, according to ESPN. Kaepernick has kept up his pledge to donate $100,000 a month for 10 months to underprivileged Americans. The San Francisco 49ers agreed to match his donations, totaling at $2 million.
ESPN reports that he will opt out of his contract with the 49ers this week and become a free agent.
Army Times published an open letter to Kaepernick regarding his national anthem protest from Army Green Beret and life-long 49er fan, Nate Boyer. Boyer, who served multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, played college football at the University of Texas and even played one game in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks.
In the letter, Boyer describes the one game where he got to stand on the sideline during the national anthem with the Seahawks, holding up the American flag.
“As I ran out of the tunnel with the American flag I could feel myself swelling with pride, and as I stood on the sideline with my hand on my heart as the anthem began, that swelling burst into tears,” wrote Boyer. “That moment meant so much more to me than even playing in the game did, and to be honest, if I had noticed my teammate sitting on the bench, it would have really hurt me,” he added.
Following the letter,
Kaepernick met with Boyer and invited him to be a sideline guest at next game in San Diego. Boyer labeled it a "good talk” in a photo with Kaepernick that he posted to Twitter. While Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem that day, Boyer stood tall beside him.
Boyer’s letter ended with a note of solidarity with Kaepernick.
“I look forward to the day you’re inspired to once again stand during our national anthem. I’ll be standing right there next to you. Keep on trying,” wrote Boyer.