Colin Kaepernick begins the season as the 49ers' backup quarterback behind Blaine Gabbert. Any other year, and that would be the end of the conversation because, really, there's not much to say when you can't beat Gabbert out for the starting job. But this isn't any other year. Kaepernick made news last month when he sat for the national anthem as a form of protest because, as he explained at the time, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color."
As you might expect, controversy followed, and everyone -- from military members to the President of the United States -- weighed in. Even NFL players -- both former and current -- are divided on Kaepernick's choice of protest; former Jets and Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason called Kaepernick "about as disrespectful as any athlete has ever been." Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall disagreed -- and did so on Esiason's radio show.
"This guy, he's one of the biggest patriots out there," Marshall said Tuesday during CBS Radio's "Boomer and Carton." "Because he's standing up for human rights."
Marshall continued: "I think President Obama said it best: That's his constitutional right. I think that the message was a little diluted because of how much respect a lot of us have for those that served. [They] gave us our freedoms, fought for our freedoms. But the message was clear."
Last week, Esiason had this to say about Kaepernick: "I don't care what the cause is. The NFL football field is not a place for somebody to further their political ambitions. Can you imagine if a player went out on the field with a 'Make America Great Again' hat and let's vote for (Donald) Trump? It's the same thing."
Marshall's response on Tuesday: "You're 100 percent wrong."
The Jets wideout explained that the issue is, in part, about perspective.
"The only thing that I would love for everyone to really think about is: What does the American flag mean to them?"
"When I look at the American flag, I see a bunch of fights," Marshall said. "You know how much we have overcome. When you look at it, the American flag is bigger than just one thing. And you have the civil rights movement, you have sex trafficking, you have immigration law. There's so many different fights there. And we have to be aware that it's bigger than one person and one thing.
"But then there are times when that one thing trumps all. When it comes to human rights, we really have to be careful. If you believe in one thing, if you believe in mental health, that means you believe in cancer research. If you believe in cancer research, you believe in raising awareness for HIV. If you believe in standing up for gay rights, then you believe in standing up for the minorities."