Nate Boyer, a former Green Beret and Seattle Seahawks long snapper, penned an open letter to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick on Tuesday evening, defending his right to protest racial inequality in the United States by sitting during the national anthem.
Later, in an interview with SportsCenter, Boyer said that after he listened to Kaepernick's reasoning for his protest, "not only does he every right to do that, but I respect him. It was incredibly brave what he did."
In the letter, which is posted at armytimes.com, Boyer says he initially felt anger toward Kaepernick but writes that he's come to a much greater understanding and appreciation of what Kaepernick is attempting to do.
"I'm not judging you for standing up for what you believe in. 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.
"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. When I told my mom about this article, she cautioned me that 'the last thing our country needed right now was more hate.' As usual, she's right."
Boyer expounded on his initial reaction in the SportsCenter interview, saying after his initial response of anger, "I stopped myself, took a breath and I tried to listen and understand.
"There are so many different perspectives, and not just talking about from the African-American society, but from the veteran society and just from America in general. And that's what makes us great.
"We're all different, have different viewpoints. We come from different places. That initial anger -- I'm not going to say hate; I didn't have hate -- but those knee-jerk reactions that are happening in our country right now ... it's not helping anything. It's not solving any problems because it's not a conversation, it's just a yelling match."
Boyer, who grew up in El Cerrito, California, just 16 miles from San Francisco, grew up a fan of the 49ers and writes that he used to dress as Joe Montana for Halloween. Also contained in the letter is a picture of a football Kaepernick signed and inscribed "God bless our troops" for a charity function Boyer held. The ball, he notes, went to the highest bidder, Boyer's father.
"There are already plenty people fighting fire with fire, and it's just not helping anyone or anything," Boyer wrote, finishing the letter with the Green Berets' motto.
"So I'm just going to keep listening, with an open mind. I look forward to the day you're inspired to once again stand during our national anthem. I'll be standing right there next to you. Keep on trying ... De Oppresso Liber."
And Boyer wasn't the only current or former military member to offer support to Kaepernick. Late Tuesday night, the hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick was the No. 1 trending topic in the United States.
Don't use my service--or that of any veteran--to justify the silencing of black Americans. Not on my watch. #VeteransForKaepernick— Charles Clymer (@cmclymer) August 31, 2016
In the interview with SportsCenter, Boyer said there are "a lot of people from the veterans community that are supporting his decision."
"Whether they agree with it or not, they are supporting his right. That's kind of where I sit. I've got his back. I hope that he is inspired to stand for the anthem again. That would mean the world to me."
49ers coach Chip Kelly said Tuesday that Kaepernick will play in Thursday's preseason finale against the San Diego Chargers, who will be holding their annual salute to the military at that game.