Colin Kaepernick's no-longer-silent protest of the National Anthem has inspired any number of reactions. Many of them are not calm and some are not very polite. A discussion of race and the American flag in 2016 is not a safe place for rational thinking.
The heated atmosphere surrounding Kap's comments make the response from Nate Boyer, a Green Beret who is technically an NFL free-agent long snapper, even more inspired.
Boyer, who signed with the Seahawks during the 2015 offseason and got to live out his dream of playing in an NFL game (albeit a preseason one), wrote an open letter to Kaepernick at the Army Times.
It's the sort of thoughtful approach you would expect from a guy whose life journey has taken him to war zones and big-time Division I football and the NFL. As you might expect, Boyer is a pretty big fan of the American flag and the national anthem.
The only time I got to stand on the sideline for the anthem was during my one and only NFL preseason game, against the Denver Broncos. As I ran out of the tunnel with the American flag I could feel myself swelling with pride, and as I stood on the sideline with my hand on my heart as the anthem began, that swelling burst into tears.
Boyer wrote about imagining being in the moment and spotting a teammate sitting down.
That moment meant so much more to me than even playing in the game did, and to be honest, if I had noticed my teammate sitting on the bench, it would have really hurt me.
And he admitted originally being "angry" about Kaepernick's decision to protest, before coming around on the idea of what the 49ers quarterback is doing.
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. 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.
The final words are something Boyer referenced earlier in the letter, the Army Special Forces motto, which means "To Free the Oppressed."
The entire letter is a remarkable read, because you get inside the head of someone who has served in the military and see the reaction. Boyer is not alone in terms of being in the military and supporting Kap -- he also admits he knows nothing about being oppressed because of the circumstances in which he grew up.