Programming note: Watch the full interview with Nate Boyer and Charles Woodson on tonight’s episode of “Race In America: A Candid Conversation” on NBC Sports Bay Area at 8 p.m., hosted by Monte Poole and Logan Murdock.
The debate over Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling continues to evolve, most notably as it relates to the NFL. The league went from controversially shutting him out to embracing him and the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd's death while in police custody.
Nate Boyer, the former Green Beret who advised the former 49ers quarterback to kneel rather than sit during the national anthem, had a powerful exchange on with Raiders legend Charles Woodson on "Race in America: A Candid Conversation" about framing Kaepernick’s now historic gesture, both when it happened and looking towards the future.
BOYER: "I’ve had this constant fear that when it comes to the NFL and comes to the anthem and all these things, that people are going to feel this pressure or this misconception of, OK. Well, if you take a knee you’re on board to fight against all these things. But if you don’t, does that mean you stand for racism or you stand for things not changing? And it’s not. It absolutely does not mean that. But I think that’s something I’m getting a little nervous about with the upcoming season because I know there’s certain people that feel that way. I know I need to not focus on worrying about those people, because there are certain people that are just not going to change."
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WOODSON: "The problem is, once the message got distorted, then you weren’t able to truly explain why you stand or wouldn’t stand. I stood for the National Anthem countless times, and in my mind I always thought about what you guys were going through. People who went to war, fought for this country. People who died, who didn't make it back. I mean, I actually would think about that. Interestingly, then when Colin knelt, then all of a sudden, when things happen you start doing a little research on things. So then you start researching the National Anthem and what it actually stood for when it first was written, and now you’re like, hold on, I can see his point now. So now, you’re thinking to yourself, Okay, this is what Colin Kaepernick is kneeling for, I absolutely agree with that.
"But on the other side of it like you said, Nate, you’re gonna stand for the flag. You’re gonna put your hand on your heart. There would have been nothing wrong with some of the players saying, ‘Hey, you know what, I can still fight against police brutality and racial injustice along with Colin Kaepernick, but I want to stand for the National Anthem. I want to put my hand over my heart.’ And that would have been fine. But, as soon as they said, ‘Aw, man you know, if you take a knee you're disrespecting the flag. You don’t care about our military. Then you should just leave this country.’ The whole thing went a totally different direction than it should have, when a person should have just been able to say, ‘I support Colin Kaepernick. I’m still going to stand for the flag, but whatever Colin is involved in, what he’s trying to combat, police brutality and racial injustice, I’m 100 percent on board.’ Bam! You know what I’m saying. The whole conversation would have changed, but people weren’t willing to do that. They had to jump on their sides and stay on their sides and they weren’t willing to come off of that side."
BOYER: "Of course politicians in high places and mainstream cable news didn’t help in that either. For sure. They like to stoke that fire, they like to stoke that division. So that’s my biggest worry now, but I’ve been encouraged this last week because of the NASCAR stuff. NASCAR was just one microcosm of that, but to think that people are really, hopefully, listening more, and respecting that more and understanding it. They have every right to feel like Drew Brees said, he personally thinks it’s disrespectful and that’s totally his right. That’s OK. You can feel those things. But to not acknowledge that those are your feelings, your emotions, that it’s not just the truth you know what I mean?
"Now, I think Drew Brees is a great guy. That was just a misstep in that situation, and I think he's learned from that. And I hope a lot of people have learned from that. And I just hope that everybody can appreciate that regardless. I might feel this way and it’s OK to have a feeling about something, but to think that my way is just right, and the only way is just not fair. It’s just not fair."