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PIERS-How dare you call them sons of bitches MrPresident?

It was just over a year ago when NFL star Colin Kaepernick first refused to stand for the US national anthem when it was played during a San Francisco 49ers preseason game.

Instead, he sat it out, explaining afterwards he did it in response to a summer of contentious police shootings involving fellow African-Americans: ‘I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people,’ he said. ‘To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.’

My gut reaction at the time to the images of Kaepernick slouching on his seat as the anthem played was not dissimilar to Donald Trump’s.

I thought it was massively disrespectful to those who have fought in the US military for the freedoms the flag and anthem symbolise, and I said so in a strident column which ended with this entreaty to the quarter-back: ‘Get off your backside, stand to attention, put your hand on your heart and thank God you spend your life chasing footballs not dodging bullets. Then we’ll believe you when you say you’re not anti-American, and we may listen harder to the message you want to convey.’

It was just over a year ago when NFL star Colin Kaepernick first refused to stand for the national anthem when it was played during a San Francisco 49ers preseason game. My gut reaction at the time to the images of Kaepernick slouching on his seat as the anthem played was not dissimilar to Donald Trump’s

Barack Obama, who was President at the time, concurred: ‘When it comes to the flag and the national anthem, and the meaning it holds for men and women in uniform, that is a tough thing for them to get past to then hear what his deeper concerns are.’

Obama, though, endorsed Kaepernick’s constitutional right to act as he did, and made this very good point: ‘I want Mr Kaepernick and others who are on a knee to listen to the pain that may cause somebody who, for example, had a spouse or a child who was killed in combat and why it hurts them to see somebody not standing. But I also want people to think about the pain he may be expressing about somebody who’s lost a loved one that they think was unfairly shot.’

In other words, there were two sides to this debate, both worthy of respectful hearing.

Kaepernick’s sitting protests sparked a storm of fury across America.

But a transformative moment arrived a few weeks into the furore in the shape of an open letter to Kaepernick from Nate Boyer, a former Green Beret who played briefly for the Seattle Seahawks in 2015.

Boyer politely told Kaepernick why it was so hurtful as a veteran to see him sitting through the anthem, but he also vowed to listen to him ‘with an open mind’.

Kaepernick choosing to sit caused a storm of fury. But as seen here, he later knelt instead as a compromise after an open letter from and a chat with free agent and veteran Green Beret Nate Boyer, standing right in black shirt

Kaepernick choosing to sit caused a storm of fury. But as seen here, he later knelt instead as a compromise after an open letter from and a chat with free agent and veteran Green Beret Nate Boyer, standing right in black shirt

The two men met, discussed the issue at length, and as a result, Kaepernick switched to kneeling.

Why?

Let former Staff Sgt. Boyer tell the story: ‘We sorta came to a middle ground where he would take a knee alongside his teammates. Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave, you know, to show respect.’

Boyer then stood next to a kneeling Kaepernick at a game, for which he himself was abused – even by some of his former Green Beret comrades.

But he said: ‘I also had a lot of people in the military that said: ‘Man, I hadn’t really thought about that before. I think you’re onto something.’

Yes, he was.

Boyer made me think too.

Kneeling is not and never has been a mark of disrespect.

When I go to church and kneel, it is in fact the mark of utmost respect during any service.

Just as it is when soldiers kneel at the graves of slain colleagues.

When Kaepernick sat, it looked and felt very disrespectful.

When he kneeled, it suddenly looked and felt very different.

I wrote another column a month later, following the appalling shooting by police of Keith Scott, a 43-year-old black man in Charlotte, North Carolina, that led to widespread rioting.

I admitted I’d been wrong about Kaepernick and that he, not the rioters, had by far the better response to racial injustice by making his voice heard in a peaceful, respectful way.

‘That voice is now resonating in a singularly powerful way across America. It’s time we all listened to him.’

Sadly, one person who didn’t want to listen to him was President Donald Trump.

As more players joined Kaepernick’s kneeling protest this season, Trump’s rage finally boiled over.

In a furious outburst during a speech in Alabama last Friday night, he bellowed: ‘Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects out flag, to say, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired!’

Trump's furious Friday tirade backfired, after he bellowed to the crowd, ¿Wouldn¿t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects out flag, to say, ¿Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He¿s fired!¿

Trump’s furious Friday tirade backfired, after he bellowed to the crowd, ‘Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects out flag, to say, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired!’

Trump also urged fans to walk out of games if they saw even one player kneel.

But his tirade backfired in spectacular fashion over the weekend, as more than 200 NFL players kneeled during the anthem at games in an extraordinarily powerful show of solidarity.

Hundreds more linked arms with the kneelers including Trump’s friend Tom Brady.

NFL team owners, led by long time friends of Trump, lined up to condemn him in statements.

It was one, gigantic middle fingered response to the President from a great American institution.

Perhaps the most stinging retort of all came from the mother of the guy who started all this, who didn’t take kindly to Trump’s ‘son of a bitch’ comment.

NFL players kneeled during the anthem at games in an extraordinarily powerful show of solidarity. Hundreds more linked arms with the kneelers. Here, the Colts

NFL players kneeled during the anthem at games in an extraordinarily powerful show of solidarity. Hundreds more linked arms with the kneelers. Here, the Colts

Perhaps the most stinging retort of all came from Kap's mother 

Perhaps the most stinging retort of all came from Kap’s mother 

Teresa Kaepernick tweeted simply: ‘Guess that makes me a proud bitch!’

She has every reason to feel pride in her son.

He has shown remarkable courage and resilience in the past year, despite exposing himself to horrific abuse and death threats.

And at the heart of Kaepernick’s protest lies an undeniable truth: America’s black population still gets treated differently and more unfairly than the white population.

There remains a deep-rooted prejudice at the core of American society that disadvantages black people and to deny that is to propagate and prolong that prejudice.

Black Americans are worse educated, receive worse health care, and are more punitively incarcerated than white Americans. They also get shot dead more often by police.

These are all indisputable hard statistically proven facts.

Kaepernick has brought this all to sharp national focus with his simple kneeling protest.

He has done so in a silent, respectful manner, and for that, he surely deserves all OUR respect.

Trump’s job, as President, is to unite a racially divided country, not recklessly pour petrol on the flames of that division.

To call the kneelers sons of bitches was a disgraceful thing for the President of the United States to say about anyone, let alone some of the country’s greatest sportsmen. By using such an ugly taunt, Trump let himself down, he let down the office of the presidency, and he let down the country.

A show of player solidarity also came from Trump's friend Tom Brady, seen here linked arms with his teammates on Sunday

A show of player solidarity also came from Trump’s friend Tom Brady, seen here linked arms with his teammates on Sunday

He therefore owes all those players, and their mothers, a heartfelt apology.

He also owes it to America to put this mess right, and there is a simple way for him to do this.

If you truly want to be a unifying president, Mr Trump, then invite Colin Kaepernick to the White House this week and hear him out.

Let this brave, bold young man tell you face to face what he feels is inherently wrong with the way black Americans are still being treated.

Then pose for a photo as you shake Kaepernick’s hand in the Oval Office and tell black Americans to a TV camera that you hear them, you will listen to them, and you will strive to make their lives better.

It’s never too late to change your mind about an issue as important as this, Mr President.

I changed my mind about Colin Kaepernick when he changed his mode of protest. He changed his mind about how to protest after a direct appeal from a Green Beret military hero. Nate Bower changed HIS mind about the point of protest when he spoke to Kaepernick.

 If everyone else can compromise, Mr President, so can you.

You can insist, as you tweeted again today, that it’s ‘not about race’ – but actually, that’s exactly what it’s about.

These black football players are kneeling specifically to protest against racial inequality.

An inequality that demonstrably exists.

It’s time to start healing wounds, not inflict further damage. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk