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Colin Kaepernick announced his plans to now stand during the national anthem

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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who sparked debate last season for kneeling during the national anthem, said he will no longer use this method of protest next season because he doesn't want to detract from the positive change he believes has been created, ESPN reported. 

He said that the amount of national discussion on social inequality generated as a result of his actions had affirmed the message he was trying to deliver. 

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FILE - In this Oct. 2, 2016 file photo, from left, San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Eli Harold, quarterback Colin Kaepernick and safety Eric Reid kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Santa Clara, Calif. In recent months, Colin Kaepernick has become comfortable with people knowing him as more than a laser-focused football player as he always previously preferred it. Perhaps, through the anthem protest and his emergence as an outspoken activist for minorities, Kaepernick has improved his image in the process. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

The shift in behavior comes after he sat during the national anthem in the 2016 preseason, but reverted to kneeling during 16 regular-season games. 

Many of Kaepernick's teammates supported the quarterback during the controversy. At the end of the season, they awarded him with the Len Eshmont Award, which goes to the player who "best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of Len Eshmont," an original member of the 1946 49ers team.

Kaepernick's actions in 2016 drew widespread criticism, evoking a fierce debate about First Amendment protection and paying homage  to those who have sacrificed their lives fighting for American freedom. 

After his recent announcement, some thought his protest was too short-lived.

Sources also told ESPN that the quarterback will opt out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers and become a free agent next week. 

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