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Former Green Beret/NFL player’s role in Kaepernick kneel down

Los Angeles (CNN) Backup quarterbacks are supposed to ride the pine with little to no fanfare.

But when San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick parked his butt on the bench during the singing of “The National Anthem” this preseason, it created a firestorm that transcended sports.

By sitting the song out, Kaepernick hoped to call attention to police brutality and racial inequality in America. He says that he refuses to “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

colin sitsThe polarizing play has created a movement.  that has seen other NFL players follow suit and others raise their fists — echoing the iconic images of John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

Kaepernick’s original sit-down inspired a former Green Beret and NFL long snapper Nate Boyer to pen an open letter.

“I’m not judging you for standing up for what you believe in,” he wrote. “It’s your inalienable right. What you are doing takes a lot of courage, and I’d be lying if I said I knew what it was like to walk around in your shoes. I’ve never had to deal with prejudice because of the color of my skin, and for me to say I can relate to what you’ve gone through is as ignorant as someone who’s never been in a combat zone telling me they understand what it’s like to go to war.

Boyer continued, “Even though my initial reaction to your protest was one of anger, I’m trying to listen to what you’re saying and why you’re doing it.”

boyer seahawks

Kaepernick read Boyer’s letter and asked to meet with him before the 49ers played the San Diego Chargers on Military Appreciation Day at the conclusion of the preseason.

Boyer and Kaepernick formed a mutual understanding and a plan.

boyer tweet

Nate Boyer appeared on “CNN Newsroom L.A.”

“I met with Colin and Eric (Reid) ten days ago now, the night before their last preseason game,” Boyer recounted.

“Two games before that, Colin had sat down on the bench, isolated from his team. He read the open letter that I wrote to him and invited me down to have a discussion about everything. He was looking for a more respectful way to demonstrate — because he does have a big heart for our military and service members, and he also understands that most police officers are good people and do it the right way. But there still are these social injustices that he’s recognizing. We kinda came to a middle ground where he would take a knee alongside his teammates.”

Boyer, then, joined Kaepernick and Reid on the sidelines for the game against the Chargers. He stood next to them with his hand over heart for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” This time, as they’d arranged, Kaepernick and Reid took a knee.

“It was really cool to see that image spread versus the sitting on the bench alone,” Boyer said. “I think it’s more pro-active, first of all, and alongside your teammates is the key there, still apart of the unit — even though you may think a little bit differently.”

While Boyer says he’s come to appreciate Kaepernick’s stance and objectives, conveying that to fellow military veterans is not an easy task.

“There’s a lot of people that don’t agree with it,” Boyer said. “Just as I fought, and many people fought for his right to do what he’s doing, we also fought for the right for people to disagree with it and have those opinions. But at the same time, this is what America is supposed to be about. This is what is supposed to set us apart from the un-free world — the freedoms for him to stand for or kneel for something that he truly believes in. What’s important now is the action moving forward.”

colin season openerAnd Kaepernick has addressed that, too. He’s pledged $1 million to charities that focus on racial issues and is donating the proceeds from his jersey sales, too (which became the top seller in the NFL). The 49ers followed suit, pledging $1 million to organizations working to fight inequality and improve relationships between law enforcement and the surrounding communities.

“The donating of the money is a huge step,” Boyer said. “But I would like to see him, and all these guys that are taking a knee now or raising a fist, to really get involved in the community on the grassroots level and be apart of the change they want to see.”

Written and produced by: Ben Bamsey for “CNN Newsroom L.A.”

boyer on cnni

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