The talk of the nation as of late has been about San Francisco 49ers Quarterback, Colin Kaepernick.

The topic, however, isn’t about contract negotiations, or whether or not he’ll be the week 1 starter. The conversation goes far beyond sports and instead opens up a deep wound underneath the thick skin of Americana.

Kaepernick made headlines with his controversial decision to the sit during the national anthem of a 49ers preseason game in early August.

Since the intial protest, Kaepernick has been scrutinized and bashed by many who feel disrespected by his protest.

Kaepernick has, however, been backed up by fellow athletes who have supported his decision and have even protested the anthem themselves.

The disdain for Kaepernick’s protest has gone so far that the Santa Barbara police department even threatened to no longer work 49er games as long as Kaepernick continued his protest.

I mean, really? As officers your job is to protect and serve, not protect and serve when you feel like it.

The idea that an entire department would be so insensitive as to show a complete disregard for the safety of thousands of people attending and working 49er games just to spite a single individual for practicing his right as an American to free speech and protest is an incredibly poor lack of judgement and character.

But I digress.

Now the argument against the protest is that Kaepernick is blatantly disrespecting the anthem, the flag and to some, the men and women that have fought and served to uphold the standards by which Americans live by and the opportunities they have created.

This argument seems just a little far-fetched to me and the tactic is being turned into something uglier than it really is.

The protest isn’t meant to disrespect the country or disregard the brave men and women who fight for our inalienable rights, but rather to spark a conversation and disavow the lack of action in the fight against oppression and injustice.

Kaepernick is an African-American superstar athlete from the United States, a position that holds power, money and most importantly, responsibility.

It is obtuse to believe that an athlete is solely an athlete and that their thoughts shouldn’t move beyond the realm of sports.

Athletes, like you and I, are people. People with beliefs, opinions, morals, and values.

The same people who tweet and message these athletes and celebrities saying things like “stay in your lane” or “stick to your day job” are just a small representation of the type of people that are part of the problem that Kaepernick is protesting in the first place.

These are people that are afraid to acknowledge that a REAL conversation needs to be had and that REAL actions need to be made in order to progress and move our country forward.

Actions that go far beyond a trending hashtag or a protest in the streets. Actions that garner actual results.

See, the protest isn’t meant to purposely piss people off, it’s supposed to create dialogue for an issue that has plagued our nation for far too long, the issue of inequal treatment and oppression of minorities.

Now some will say, “Kaepernick gets paid millions of dollars to play a children’s game, what does he know about being oppressed?” and well, while there may be validity to that, Kaepernick isn’t solely speaking for himself, but instead using his fame to speak for the unspoken.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color” – Colin Kaepernick 

Kaepernick understands his position and responsibility as a known commodity with a voice and he’s using that voice to speak up, and in this case, sit down for the rights of his people.

Kaepernick sees his protest as a statement that shows that he will not stand for a country that continues to do little-to-nothing about social injustice and inequality.

For far too long, children from troubled areas have been led to believe that if they can’t dribble a ball or rap a lyric, they won’t make it in this life.

These are the kind of people that go unaccounted for, the kind of people that get the finger pointed at them, but don’t have the credibility to point the finger back.

These predisposed ideas have to change and opportunity has to be available for all of us to make it.

The reality is that crime IS an issue in this country, murder IS an epidemic, and police brutality DOES exist. Social injustice is at the forefront of the plague that is preventing us from moving forward as a united nation.

Now while I believe that more can be done, I also believe that it takes more than simply protesting the national anthem and flag, a tactic that I actually believe shouldn’t be practiced in the first place, but now that we’re here, we’re here.

I believe it takes a combined effort from all of us to peacefully stand together and support one-another and bring true meaning to the terms “patriotism” and “brotherhood”.

Still, the conversation must be had. For far too long people have turned a blind-eye to the suffering of our fellow American brothers and sisters on a daily basis.

For this country to overcome, you mustn’t turn your back on it, you must fight with it and defend the honor and freedoms that have made our nation so great for so long.

See, when I think of the United States, I don’t want to think of a nation of individual entities, divided and separated by social injustices. When I think of the United States, I want to think of one nation, under god, indivisible, with liberty and JUSTICE FOR ALL.

Now I stand for the anthem and I believe in the current state and future of my nation and I am thankful for the freedoms that I have been provided, the kind of freedoms that allow me to post an opinion piece on a public forum for everyone to read.

If I’m using my 1st ammendement right to freedom of speech and press, it just seems hypocritical to reprimand another for using their own 1st ammendement right to protest and fight for a cause that I also believe needs to be fought for.

So all-in-all, though I’ve struggled with the topic and flip-flopped for so long on what’s right and what’s wrong, even going so far as to calling Kaepernick “an idiot” I understand the necessity and the severity of the cause behind the protest.

I may not agree with the tactic, but the tactic is working and the conversation is being had.

A conversation that far surpasses the importance of Kaepernick’s spot on the 49ers QB depth chart and the type of success he can have under a Chip Kelly offense.

But my one word of advice to Kaepernick is that if you’re going to fight against oppression, you may want to throw away any kind of attire with Fidel Castro’s face on it. It’s not a good look, my dude.

At the end of it all, we’re all in it together, and a nation together is much stronger than a nation divided.

God bless the USA, baby!