On August 26, 2016, the Green Bay Packers traveled to Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, CA to play the San Francisco 49ers for a pre-season contest. The Packers beat the 49ers 21-10 but that wasn’t the big story. Not by a long shot. Before the game ever kicked off, 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick was noticed not standing during the presentation of the National Anthem.

As we all know, Kaepernick has been discussed and scrutinized every since his proclaimed protest and subsequent locker room interview with the media. Kaepernick insisted that his protest was to bring to light issues within this country that are important to him but believes that are not getting the attention they deserve nor the positive changed that is called for.

One of the strongest critics of Kaepernick in the wake of this was Tomi Lahren of The Blaze online network.

I’m going to be honest, I thought Lahren’s assessment was laughable and ridiculous–and I still do–but then I came across a response to Lahren. Ryan Davis gives us a dismantling of Lahren’s argument that is pretty damning for those who side with her. WARNING: He uses profanity. These aren’t my words but I do like what he says.

Many didn’t like that Kaepernick chose to use the National Anthem as his opportunity to protest. For some, The Star-Spangled Banner is the song that incapsilates all that is good about American and it represents the struggles and sacrifices made by our brave members of the armed forces. I heard a lot of “Show some f*cking respect” or “You’re not oppressed, you whiny rich brat” and some going even as far as burning the No 7 jersey worn by the San Francisco quarterback. But we also saw veterans come out in the defense of Kaepernick after so many had condemned the 28 year old NFL star. Some took to Twitter with hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick in support of Kaepernick and his right to protest in any format to bring attention to the issues concerning him. Even President Obama has backed Kaepernick right to protest saying that he is “exercising his constitutional right” and that he believes that he “cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about.”

Yes, I’m a San Francisco 49ers fan. I’m also a Colin Kaepernick the football player fan. I was also and have now become more of a Colin Kaepernick the conscious citizen fan and I’ll tell you why.

People are always talking about how public figures, whether it be an elected figure or a well know community leader or a sports athlete, should use their platform and celebrity in order to bring light to difficult subjects and help facilitate positive change. That is exactly what Kaepernick is trying to do in this situation but is being portrayed as a whiny and out of touch rich brat. This catch 22 is highly unfair because it dissuades protesters from speaking up–which I realize may be the actual point–thus causing the topic to not receive the attention that it needs to move people forward. Taking the stance even with the continued backlash is commendable and I would like to see Kaepernick continue while becoming more involved in those issues that bother him. Maybe he can find a way to be a bridge between the black community and local law enforcement to produce Q&A town-halls. I think his donating $1 million to community organizations is a good start.

Kaepernick isn’t just now trying to be a ‘good guy’ and stand up for something other thanimg_3338 himself or football. He’s been doing that. He has spoken out on social issues before, mainly via Instagram and Twitter. Take this post on Instagram from mid 2015 for example, where Kaepernick says, “Racism and discrimination isn’t OK [W]e are all human beings! Things need to change!” Anyone who has noticed this or taken the time to look into this will find that he hasn’t been shy sharing his opinions. Also, Kaepernick has hosted football camps for kids, including 2016 where he spent the majority of the off-season rehabbing from multiple injuries and surgeries. Kaepernick is also very involved with Camp Taylor, a youth program in California for children suffering from heart disease. This is a young man who is concerned for his local community and the country at large. We shouldn’t be discouraging activism like his because we simply just don’t see enough of it.

In a roundabout way, Kaepernick taught me something that I didn’t know. It’s that The Star-Spangled Banner has a tired stanza…and that stanza mentions the death to slaves–American slaves. There have been some question whether our National Anthem itself is racist. I’m not willing to go that far, at least not at this moment but it did give me reason to pause and do some exploring. Kaepernick’s protest is working. Not only did he draw attention to the current hot button issue of police brutality against minorities but it caused us to look deeper into our nation’s coveted song–the one so many speak of with so much pride.

No refuge can save the hireling and the slave

From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave

A simple Wikipedia search would let you know that there is way more to our National Anthem then what the average American knows. There’s actually FOUR verses?! Hell, there are a lot of good ol’ Mericans that don’t know the first verse very well! Check this from Ben Swann.

Colin Kaepernick has every right to not stand during the National Anthem in protest. Wanting to do away with peaceful protest that is aimed to shedding light on issues that trouble our country does us all a disservice. My hope is that others join Kaepernick, maybe not in this specific type of protesting but in the quest for change and forward moving to get to a place where we can look at racism and unequal treatment as a thing of the past. Like Kaepernick, I love this country and I do my best to serve it in a positive way everyday. Think of the type of country this would be if we all tried to serve one another, protect one another, and stand up (or sit down) for one another.