The former Green Beret and NFL player, who made headlines last year when he published a letter in the Army Times supporting Colin Kaepernick’s protest efforts, found himself compelled to write another letter Friday. This time, however, Nate Boyer’s missive was addressed to all Americans, including President Trump.
Recalling his initial feelings of “hurt” to see Kaepernick sit for the anthem before convincing the former 49ers quarterback to kneel to draw attention to the issue of ongoing racial inequality in the United States, Boyer said he’s feeling “much more hurt now.”
“Not by [Kaepernick], not by where we’re at now with the protests, but by us,” he said. “Simply put, it seems like we just hate each other; and that is far more painful to me than any protest, or demonstration, or rally, or tweet.”
Boyer, who once tried out for a spot with the Seattle Seahawks, said the debate is no longer “about the anthem, or the flag, or kneeling, or sitting, or fists in the air.” Instead, he believes it has become nothing more than a political litmus test.
“This doesn’t even seem to be about right or wrong, but more about right or left,” he wrote. “It’s not about President Donald Trump, it’s not about Colin Kaepernick, it’s not about the military or even police brutality. It feels like it’s about winning. . . . That desire to win at all cost is costing us greatly now among our neighbors.”
He continued, referring to his military service that at one point saw him witness genocide in Darfur:
“To deploy overseas, train, live with, fight alongside, and ultimately defend foreigners that you have little in common with is truly a challenging task. But returning home to a country that is so divided, so judgmental and so hateful of one another is almost as difficult to deal with as burying a fallen comrade.”
Boyer said there is a solution to this problem, albeit one that sounds radical in this charged political climate.
“Colin Kaepernick and President Trump should be the ones uniting our country together,” he wrote, noting he came to this conclusion following a recent sit-down with five Combat Arms and Special Operations veterans. “I know it sounds crazy, but maybe that’s exactly what we need to see. Maybe that’s how we start to heal. Two men sit in a room and talk, simple as that.
“That’s how it all started with Colin and I, neither of us knew that kneeling would be the result of our conversation. Colin wanted to sit, I wanted him to stand, and so we found a common ground on a knee alongside his teammates. I believe that progress and real change happens in this world when you reach across the divide, you build a bridge, you swallow your pride, you open your mind, you embrace what you don’t understand, and ultimately you surrender.”
“One great thing about freedom is that you get to choose every day how you treat your neighbor,” Boyer added. “This IS the best country in the world, but we can always do better.”
Kaepernick began protesting during the national anthem in 2016 to draw attention to the issue of police brutality among minority communities in the United States. After remaining on the bench for one preseason game, he decided to kneel instead in subsequent games after discussing the issue with Boyer. The issue would wind up fading somewhat from public consciousness as the season progressed — more so by the start of the 2017 season, when Kaepernick remained unsigned.
The issue received an unexpected jolt back into the national spotlight in September, when Trump called on NFL owners to fire the handful of players who chose to kneel during the anthem.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners,” the president wondered at a political rally in Alabama, “when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’ ”
Trump followed up the hypothetical, which was met with wild cheers at the rally, with a series of tweets that have extended for several weeks. Trump’s latest tweet came Wednesday, when he lauded NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for supposedly making it a rule that players stand for the anthem. (The NFL meanwhile, denied any new rule and called Trump’s tweet “not accurate.”)
For his part, Kaepernick has remained mostly quiet as his initial rationale for the protest has been overshadowed by the back and forth between Trump and the NFL. However, he has retweeted a handful of posts critical of Trump, including one that theorizes the reason for Trump’s outrage may have to do with a failed investment into a short-lived NFL competitor in the 1980s, as well as a stymied attempt to buy the Buffalo Bills in 2014.