Quarterback Colin Kaepernick will stand during the national anthem next season, sources told ESPN on Thursday.
Kaepernick no longer wants his method of protest to detract from the positive change he believes has been created, sources told ESPN. He also said 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.
As a means of protest, he began sitting during the national anthem in the 2016 preseason before taking a knee for the final preseason contest and 16 regular-season games.
Kaepernick will opt out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers on Friday and become a free agent next week, sources told ESPN.
There were other steps Kaepernick took that did not receive the same amount of attention as his anthem stance.
The Colin Kaepernick Foundation pledged to give $1 million to community organizations helping underprivileged people; the San Francisco 49ers matched with another $1 million in donations. He has followed through with monthly donations of $100,000 spread out over 10 months to organizations all over the country.
Many of Kaepernick's teammates supported the quarterback during the national debate on the subject. At the end of the season, they recognized the quarterback by giving him the Len Eshmont Award, which, according to the team, goes to the player who "best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of Len Eshmont, an original member of the 1946 49ers team." It is the highest in-house honor a 49er can receive.
Kaepernick said the discussion about social inequality should include all people, and he plans to continue raising money for the underprivileged and presenting the "Know Your Rights" camps nationwide that he started last year.