NEW ORLEANS, LA – FEBRUARY 03: Head coach Jim Harbaugh speaks to Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers during warm ups prior to Super Bowl XLVII against the Baltimore Ravens at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

In the midst of his protest of racial inequality last season, then San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick landed on the cover of Time magazine.

Now, Kaepernick is back in the pages of the magazine, this time as one of its 100 most influential people of 2017. In an interesting twist, Jim Harbaugh, Kaepernick’s former coach with the 49ers and head coach at Michigan, wrote the essay explaining why Kaepernick landed on the list and praising his efforts.

“I thank Colin for all he has contributed to the game of football as an outstanding player and trusted teammate,” Harbaugh writes. “I also applaud Colin for the courage he has demonstrated in exercising his guaranteed right of free speech. His willingness to take a position at personal cost is now part of our American story.

“How lucky for us all and for our country to have among our citizens someone as remarkable as Colin Kaepernick.”

Harbaugh’s essay represents a change in tone from his initial reaction to Kaepernick’s protest. Soon after Kaepernick’s protest became public knowledge, Harbaugh said “I acknowledge his right to do that, I don’t respect the motivation or the action.”

Harbaugh later clarified those comments in a tweet, apologizing for misspeaking and saying that he supported Kaepernick’s motivation but it was the method of action that he took exception to.

In a February podcast interview with the San Jose Mercury News, Harbaugh told columnist Tim Kawakami that he had taken more time to reflect on Kaepernick’s protest and had better understanding of why Kaepernick did what he did.

Kaepernick played for Harbaugh from 2011 to 2014 before the Niners parted ways with Harbaugh. Kaepernick is currently a free agent after electing to opt out of the final year of his contract in San Francisco. He will not return to the 49ers after they signed veteran free agents Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. Barkley has already been issued Kaepernick’s No. 7.

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SOURCE: ESPN – Nick Wagoner