49ers honor Colin Kaepernick with prestigious award

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) -- Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers player whose controversial decision this year to kneel during the national anthem before games, has been recognized by his teammates and named this year winner of the Len Eshmont Award.

The team announced the decision on Friday and represents the 49ers' most important honor for its players.

Eshmont was an original member of the 1946 49ers team and he coached at Navy and Virginia after his career in San Francisco, according to a statement on the 49ers' website. Eshmont died in 1957, the same year the team established the award in his honor.

Players vote for the recipient and it has previously been awarded to linebacker NaVorro Bowman, defensive tackle Justin Smith and wide receiver Anquan Boldin, according to a post on the SF Gate website.

Kaepernick's decision to not stand during the anthem in the opening minutes before football games sparked a national conversation as the U.S. was reeling from a spate of fatal officer-involved shootings.

Kaepernick said he wanted to draw attention to police brutality in minority communities and said he was unable to support policing that abuses people whom officers are sworn to protect.

The fact that it has blown up like this, I think it's a good thing. It brings awareness," Kaepernick said in August when asked about his protest. "Now, I think people are really talking about it. Having conversations about how to make change. What's really going on in this country. And we can move forward. ...There is police brutality. People of color have been targeted by police."

During private meetings with teammates, Kaepernick argued that the police treatment was unfair and selective. 

Three months ago, team CEO Jed York said he would match Kaepernick's $1 million pledge to community organizations.

For a list of other players honored by the 49ers, click here