On Friday, the San Francisco 49ers awarded Colin Kaepernick with the Len Eshmont Award, which is traditionally given to the player who “best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of Len Eshmont, an original member of the 1946 49ers team.” It was established after Len Eshmont passed away and is considered the most prestigious award the team votes on.
Kaepernick was chosen by his teammates, no doubt, because of his choice to kneel during the national anthem before each game as a form of protest against racial inequality across the country. After kneeling the first time, a inspired other teammates to do the same and and garnered media attention both positive and negative.
“It’s very impactful, and I think they are people who have very strong character,” Kaepernick said about having the support of his team. “And to have the ability to really recognize what’s going on, how it not only affects them, but it affects their families and affects other people that look like them, is something that’s very powerful — and I’m very happy to have teammates like that, that have that type of character, that have those type of ethics and humanity.”
Not everyone has been pleased with his choice in protest, and many — including a U.S. Navy admiral — have criticized Kaepernick for his failure to stand for the national anthem. Such criticism only worsened after it came out that he didn’t vote in November’s presidential election. Still, the 49ers felt he deserved the award.
“When it first came out, obviously, there were probably some guys straddling the fence or on opposite sides,” safety Antoine Bethea said Thursday of Kaepernick’s protest to CSN Bay Area. “But at the end of the day, I think we did a good job as a team nipping it in the bud at the beginning. We came together as a team. Kap spoke to the team. He explained why he was doing that. He also explained if anybody didn’t agree or agreed or wanted to come talk to him, feel free to do that.”