Kaepernick named 49ers’ most courageous player by teammates

So much for dividing the locker room.

Colin Kaepernick, who sparked a nationwide conversation with his controversial decision to kneel during the national anthem this season, was voted the 49ers’ most courageous and inspirational player by his teammates, the NFL club announced Friday.

Kaepernick, voted the winner of the Len Eshmont Award, started his protest during the preseason and refused to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” for the duration of the season.

“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 said in August about his motivation for kneeling.

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Despite critics like former NFL quarterbacks Trent Dilfer and Boomer Esiason who argued Kaepernick’s stance would undermine the locker room dynamic in San Francisco, Friday’s announcement illustrated the level of support Kaepernick had from his team.

“I think what Kap did will be talked about for years to come – an NFL player using his platform for what he wanted to use it for,” veteran safety Antoine Bethea said Thursday on the CSN Bay Area’s 49ers podcast.

Dilfer, who won a Super Bowl with the Ravens and is now an ESPN analyst, took Kaepernick to task in September.

Colin Kaepernick's public stance against oppression earns him a top team honor.

Colin Kaepernick’s public stance against oppression earns him a top team honor.

(Mike Groll/AP)

“The big thing that hit me through all this was this is a backup quarterback whose job is to be quiet,” Dilfer said on ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown” show, “and sit in the shadows and get the starter ready to play Week 1.

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“Yet he chose a time where all of a sudden he became the center of attention. And it has disrupted that organzation. It has caused friction. And it’s torn at the fabric of the team.”

Kaepernick also got sacked by Esiason.

“I cannot say it in the strongest, most direct way, that it’s an embarrassment and it’s about as disrespectful as any athlete has ever been,” Esiason told Newsday when Kaepernick’s protest first came to light.

Despite his high-profile critics, Kaepernick had the support of the 49ers organization from the start. After Kaepernick pledged $1 million to community organizations, 49ers CEO Jed York announced he would match the donation.

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49ers coach Chip Kelly said Kaepernick was “shedding light on a situation that is heinous … (and) needs to be take care of.”

Kaepernick also had widespread support outside the locker room as his No. 7 jersey became a top seller in the weeks following the start of his protest.

The Eshmont award, which has been handed out by the 49ers organziation since 1957, is considered the most prestigious of the honors voted on by the players.

san francisco 49ers
colin kaepernick
national anthem protest
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