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Once Colin Kaepernick started his national anthem protest in the preseason, he became a huge national story. And there was a lot of speculation about what his teammates thought of him and his stance.
We have a good idea how the 49ers players feel about Kaepernick now. They voted him the winner of the team’s most prestigious award.
The 49ers announced that Kaepernick won the Len Eshmont Award. The team says the award is its “most prestigious annual honor … given each year to the 49er who best exemplifies the ‘inspirational and courageous play’ of Len Eshmont.” Eshmont was a member of the 49ers’ first team in 1946, and he died in 1957. The 49ers players vote on the award every year.
While winning that award doesn’t necessarily tell us what 49ers players thought of his protest, it’s a good indication that he still has respect among his teammates. It’s also noteworthy with Kaepernick likely to hit free agency next offseason. Kaepernick can opt out of his contract, or the 49ers can cut him with no penalty on the salary cap. While we’re not sure yet how NFL owners and front offices will react to Kaepernick’s political views when it comes time to evaluate him as a free agent, it doesn’t seem like he’d be a divisive presence in the locker room. It seems as though he wasn’t divisive in San Francisco during a turbulent season.
Kaepernick has had an uneven year on the field, and he has handled a lot of criticism off the field. To get that kind of recognition from his teammates at the end of a trying season has to feel pretty good.
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