In August, then-49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick re-entered the public consciousness for reasons that had nothing to do with his job performance.
Kaepernick was spotted taking a seat on the bench during the national anthem prior to a preseason game, and he explained afterward that he had been sitting during the anthem prior to the team's previous games, as well, as a protest against the way people of color are treated -- specifically, but not exclusively, by police -- in this country.
Kaepernick's decision to sit during the anthem sparked a national debate that is still being waged to some extent. At the height of the debate, Kaepernick met with ex-Green Beret and former Seahawk Nate Boyer, who had previously written Kaepernick an open letter in which Boyer expressed that while he was initially angry with Kaepernick's protest, he was going to keep an open mind. The two came away from their meeting saying they had a "good talk" about "issues that are taking place in this country and how to prompt change" as well as "great freedoms and luxuries we have in America."
Boyer then stood on the 49ers' sideline for their preseason game that night, and he convinced Kaepernick to kneel during the anthem rather than sit on the bench. He stated that Kaepernick "took a big step by getting up off the bench and taking a knee. He gave a little so I gave a little respect."
Months later, Boyer was reached by the Washington Post for an end-of-year story on sports figures of the year, of which Kaepernick was one. Within that story, Boyer revealed that he and Kaepernick have not spoken in months and that he now wonders whether their meeting was a political stunt meant to quell opposition to his protest.
Boyer, who communicated with Kaepernick throughout most of the autumn, paid attention. He winced at Kaepernick's missteps and questioned whether the quarterback remained as open-minded as he had been during their meeting. Boyer wondered whether, in fact, their discussion had been nothing more than a political stunt.
"At the time I didn't feel like that," Boyer said. "I felt like that was real."
"I haven't seen a bridge built," he said. "And the only way we're going to get anywhere, we have to build bridges. You can't just shout and complain and expect everyone else to fix the problem. That doesn't fix the problem. It hasn't ever."
Boyer also revealed his disappointment that Kaepernick did not vote this year, noting that he did so himself for the first time. "If policy is what you want to see changed, the first way to be a part of that is to vote on them," Boyer said.
Of course, this is just Boyer's side of the story. The 49ers declined the Post's request for an interview with Kaepernick, so whatever his thoughts on the apparent deterioration of his relationship with Boyer are, we don't know them.