Why This Former Green Beret Joined Colin Kaepernick on the Sidelines

September 2nd 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

Colin Kaepernick had an unexpected guest alongside him when he protested the national anthem for a second time on Thursday evening. Nate Boyer, a veteran of the U.S Army Special Forces and former NFL player, stood next to the San Francisco 49ers quarterback while "Star Spangled Banner" played in San Diego.

Kaepernick's protest of the national anthem came as the San Diego Chargers hosted their "28th Annual Salute to the Military" at Thursday's game.

Nate Boyer, who was briefly a member of the Seattle Seahawks in 2015, stood next to Kaepernick on the sidelines even though he didn't initially agree with the quarterback's decision to protest the national anthem.

After Kaepernick's controversial first protest in a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, Boyer wrote an open letter describing his pride for the U.S. flag but also acknowledging racism and the anthem's racist origins.

"Unfortunately, I also know that racism still exists in our country, as it does in every other country on this planet, and I hate that I know that. I hate the third verse of our national anthem, but thankfully we don’t sing that verse anymore. I hate that at times I feel guilty for being white."

He also wrote about his initial disappointment and anger seeing Kaepernick sit out the national anthem.

However Boyer outlined an important aspect often missing from the controversy: the willingness to listen.

"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. There are already plenty people fighting fire with fire, and it’s just not helping anyone or anything. So I’m just going to keep listening, with an open mind. "

After an invitation to San Diego from Kaepernick, Boyer met with him and his teammate Eric Reid before the game in San Diego.

The talk convinced the two 49ers' players to protest by kneeling instead of sitting, a gesture that could be less offensive to veterans.

"We were talking to him about how can we get the message back on track and not take away from the military, not take away from pride in our country but keep the focus on what the issues really are," Kaepernick said, according to ESPN. "As we talked about it, we came up with taking a knee because there are issues that still need to be addressed and there was also a way to show more respect for the men and women that fight for this country."

Kaepernick also stood during the song "God Bless America" and applauded afterwards.

The quarterback also said he's working with community organizations to give $1 million of his nearly $12 million salary to people in need, according to USA today.

“I’ve been very blessed to be in this position and to be able to make the kind of money that I do and I have to help these people,’’ said Kaepernick, according to USA Today. “I have to help these communities. It’s not right that they’re not put in the position to succeed or given those opportunities to success.’’

Related: What This Viral Meme Gets Wrong About a Quarterback's National Anthem Protest