(Reuters) – Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers, the National Football League team said on Friday.
Kaepernick, who becomes a free agent, polarized opinion last season when he refused to stand for the U.S. national anthem, saying the protest was against social injustice and police brutality.
An ESPN report earlier this week said Kaepernick, a second-round draft pick of the 49ers in 2011, planned to stand for the anthem during the 2017 season.
He led the 49ers to the 2012 National Football Conference title before they lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl, but his career has gone downhill in recent years and he was benched last season in favor of Blaine Gabbert.
With Kaepernick gone, the 49ers are without a quarterback on their roster since Gabbert and Christian Ponder are also free agents.
“We’ve got to evaluate all the free agents, the trade possibilities and the draft, and whatever we think is the best scenario is the way we’re going to go,” new coach Kyle Shanahan said on the team’s website.
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Peter Rutherford)