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- A retired US Army Special Forces soldier who advised former NFL quarterback and civil rights activist Colin Kaepernick said that a demonstration at the National Navy SEAL Museum, where dogs bit a human target wearing Kaepernick’s football jersey, was tasteless and lacked critical thinking.
- “That was a very specific intention – as if he’s the antithesis of the American flag, a symbol of freedom, or military stance,” Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret, told Insider. “It’s almost like he’s an enemy of the United States.”
- Boyer consulted with Kaepernick — who sparked controversy over kneeling during the national anthem —on how to respectfully protest during the national anthem in 2016.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
A retired US Army Special Forces soldier who advised former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick criticized the US Navy for hosting a demonstration that featured dogs biting a human target wearing Kaepernick’s football jersey, as tasteless and lacking in any critical thinking.
“I thought it was a soft-target thing. It was pretty weak,” Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and a former long snapper for the Seattle Seahawks, told Insider. “They’re trying to raise money for a charity event and that’s what they were using? I don’t know, I think that it’s a weak move.”
Boyer noted that the decision to dress the target in a Kaepernick jersey was done with “very specific intention – as if he’s the antithesis of the American flag, a symbol of freedom, or military stance. It’s almost like he’s an enemy of the United States.”
A video of several dogs attacking a man wearing protective gear under a Kaepernick football jersey received over 7 million views after it circulated on social media over the weekend.
The demonstration was hosted in 2019 by the National Navy SEAL Museum in Florida, a nonprofit group that is not supervised by the US Navy, and included armed participants who wore camouflaged uniforms.
—Billy Corben (@BillyCorben) August 2, 2020
The Navy said in a statement that initial indications showed that there were no military equipment or active-duty personnel used during the event. On Tuesday, the service branch announced it would cut ties with the non-profit organization due the perception of the video, adding that it was “completely inconsistent with the values and ethos of … the US Navy.”
“While the museum is an independent non-profit organization and the participants were contracted employees from outside the [Department of Defense], in many ways, these facts are irrelevant. We have been inextricably linked to this organization that represents our history,” US Navy Rear Adm. Collin Green of the Naval Special Warfare Command said in an email obtained by the Associated Press.
“We may not have contributed to the misperception in this case, but we suffer from it and will not allow it to continue,” Green reportedly added.
Retired Marine Corps Col. David Lapan, a former Pentagon spokesman, agreed that the demonstration put the Navy and the SEAL community “in a very bad light.”
“I’m also concerned with any of the general public who were over there watching the demonstration, and not being able to make the distinction between a private organization and the military itself — especially when you have people carrying weapons and dressed in uniforms that people associate with the military,” Lapan told Insider.
“The stunt is in extremely poor taste,” Lapan added.
Boyer likened the demonstration to comedians “who consistently use a soft target like Donald Trump.”
“To a lot of people it might be funny, but it’s an easy way out,” Boyer said. “I’d like people to think a little harder and to try to be more creative and uniting.
“Imagine if you’re Colin Kaepernick in this situation,” Boyer added.
Boyer, who now leads several veterans groups, became acquainted with Kaepernick in 2016 after writing an open letter to the football player. At the time, Kaepernick drew criticism after he refused to stand during the playing of the national anthem at football games, as a protest to police brutality against African Americans.
In his letter, Boyer wrote that he was trying to understand Kaepernick’s views and that he was keeping an open mind.
“I’m not judging you for standing up for what you believe in. It’s your inalienable right,” Boyer wrote. “What you are doing takes a lot of courage, and I’d be lying if I said I knew what it was like to walk around in your shoes. I’ve never had to deal with prejudice because of the color of my skin, and for me to say I can relate to what you’ve gone through is as ignorant as someone who’s never been in a combat zone telling me they understand what it’s like to go to war.”
“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,” Boyer added. “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.”
Following his letter, Boyer and Kaepernick held a meeting, where the two discussed how to send a message that would resonate with more observers. Boyer advised that kneeling, rather than sitting down, would do just that.
Kaepernick played for the San Francisco 49ers during the 2016 season but then opted out of his contract after one year. He became a free agent but failed to obtain a contract with another NFL team. In 2018, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell banned players from kneeling during the national anthem, and threatened to fine teams if any of their players violated the rule.
In 2017, Kaepernick sued the league, claiming there was collusion to keep him out of the league, and settled his case with the NFL in 2019.
President Trump has periodically waded into the kneeling controversy. In 2017 he referred to Kaepernick as “son of a bitch,” and a year later he told Fox & Friends, “You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there, maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”
Trump has recently reversed course over Kaepernick, as has Goodell, who in June — following protests around the death of George Floyd — publicly apologized for the earlier ban.
“We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest,” he said.