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Torrey Smith: ‘[Colin Kaepernick] is a legend for that protest.’

It’s safe to say there will be a lot of takes on Colin Kaepernick’s recent decision.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is set to hit the free agent market next week, after he officially opts out of his contract in the next few days. In timing that has not escaped many people’s notice, word leaked out on Thursday that Kaepernick will no longer kneel during the Anthem.

His current and potentially soon to be former teammate Torrey Smith has defended Kaepernick throughout the past seventh months, and on Thursday, he called him a legend for the protest.

Smith is not the first person to speak highly of Kaepernick for his protest. Former Olympian John Carlos, who was part of the Mexico City Olympics Black Power salute protest was strongly supportive. Dr. Harry Edwards, who consults with the 49ers and helped organize the Mexico City protest, has been supportive of Kaepernick. Dr. Edwards has spoken regularly about the need for black athletes to use their platform for social good.

The first comments by a lot of people about Kaepernick’s reported decision is that he is a hypocrite, a sell-out, doing it because he’s a free agent, and/or a variety of other things.

I will agree that the timing of this news leaking out is not ideal for the issue of perception. At some point it would be great to hear from him, but for the time being, I don’t think it needs to detract from the broader message Kaepernick has conveyed over the past seven months. It does not change the fact that he is donating money and time to community organizations and minority youth groups.

I get that people question the timing of everything. And I think it is worth hearing from Kaepernick about the timing and his reasons. When he first discussed his reasons for kneeling, he talked about standing with the oppressed of the world. He said he would stand again when there is significant change and he believes the flag represents what it is supposed to represent.

In saying that, he put himself in a tough situation in terms of eventually standing up. Given his beliefs (and those of myself and others), it was going to be hard to stand up over the next four years and cite significant improvement. Adam Schefter’s report said Kaepernick thought the issues were being pushed forward, thanks in part to other pro and amateur athletes taking a knee. And we have seen numerous NFL players getting more involved in community organizations, with local police, and even up to state officials as we saw with Seahawks players in Washington.

When Kaepernick does eventually address the issue, my guess is he will speak to some of these things as reasons why he is prepared to move forward. I would not be surprised to hear some mention of how this is not the end, but just the beginning. After all, he is continuing to help community organizations and youth improve their lot in life.

For some people, there is nothing he can say or do that will appease him. When he took a knee, he was being unpatriotic. When he started donating money and time, it was fake or they purposely ignored it. And when he decided to return to standing while still continuing his actions to help others, he became a hypocrite. I do think what he says about his decision will be important to hear, but there are plenty of people who long ago decided it does not matter what he says or does.

Kaepernick is going to be a free agent next week, and we’ll find out what the next step is in his career. At some point he will be asked about the decision to stand. We might get an answer on social media, we might get a formal interview, it might be during a post-signing press conference. I am curious what his thoughts are on this, but given how he has handled himself over the past seven months, I am more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on this. He has handled a controversial situation incredibly well, while putting together efforts to help a lot of people. I see little reason to think it won’t continue.