By Ken Reed
Nate Boyer is a white man. He’s also a former Green Beret who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He played football at the University of Texas.
Nate Boyer is also the man that advised Colin Kaepernick to kneel on the sidelines next to teammates rather than sit down during the national anthem.
He supports Kaepernick’s — and others’ — protest against systemic racism, social injustice and police brutality.
“If you listen to the ‘Why,’ the narrative to the “Why’ Colin and others who’ve taken a knee — and even those who didn’t, didn’t take a knee but supported them doing it — that’s what patriotism is,” said Boyer in a podcast interview with Jim Rome. “It’s about loving your country so much, you’ll do what you can to make it better.”
I couldn’t agree more Mr. Boyer. And neither could Robert F. Kennedy, who once said, “The sharpest criticism often goes hand in hand with the deepest idealism and love of country.”
To me, true patriots don’t just stand up during the anthem and then go back home and sit on the couch, despite all the ways this country is falling short of its ideals. Patriotism is loving your country so much that you’re willing to make a lot of personal sacrifices in order to both criticize what’s wrong in your country and to work to make it a better place — for all citizens.
I think Kaepernick is indeed a patriot. It would’ve been a lot simpler — personally, professionally and economically — for Kaepernick to keep his opinions to himself and go along to get along. Well, he had the courage — more courage than most Americans — to stand up for something bigger than himself. To stand up for things he strongly believes in.
It’s been great to see that nearly four years later, a lot of Americans are acknowledging Kaepernick was raising some good points, even if they didn’t like his form of protest. Even the NFL has done a 180 on Kaepernick and the other players that chose to peacefully protest. Commissioner Roger Goodell recently said the NFL was wrong in how it handled Kaepernick and the other protesters. (It would be nice to see Goodell’s words turn into positive action, including giving Kaepernick a chance to win his job back in the league.)
Boyer readily admits that standing with his hand over his heart listening to the national anthem brings tears to his eyes. He thinks about fallen comrades, including his best friend, who’s casket he carried with an American flag draped over the top. And although he stood next to a kneeling Kaepernick during the playing of the national anthem before a game, he said he would never kneel himself during the anthem. However, he also said he fought for freedom of expression and empathized with the drive to end racism, social injustice and police brutality.
“I took the oath to defend the Constitution when I joined the military, and obviously, the First Amendment, freedom of speech, freedom of expression,” said Boyer in explaining his support of peaceful protesters during the Rome interview.
Boyer said he thinks Kaepernick is simply disappointed that America isn’t living up to its ideals, and he believes we all need to keep working to fulfill the American standard of liberty, equality and justice for all.
“That’s what America’s about,” said Boyer.
“We’re not about just being good enough. Or, just settling for things being okay, or saying things are worse in other places, so what’s the big deal? That’s not who we are.”
Colin Kaepernick, with an assist from Nate Boyer, started the national conversation four years ago. And today — finally — a lot more people are listening.
(Note: Nate Boyer’s latest venture is a non-profit called Merging Vets & Players (MVP). The program brings together military vets and former professional athletes after they’ve both taken the uniform off. MVP provides them with a new team to assist with transition, promote personal development, and show them they are never alone.)
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
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League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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