PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protests during the national anthem in 2016 got the world’s attention, including former Green Beret Jason Van Camp.
“My first reaction was disgust,” Van Camp recalls. “I didn’t understand why he was doing it, I thought he was disrespecting the flag.”
Having served in the United States Army as a Green Beret for nearly 15 years, the national anthem and the flag has a deep meaning to Van Camp.
Fellow Green Beret and former Seattle Seahawk Nate Boyer told Van Camp, who also played football in college, they should try to better understand where Kaepernick was coming from. That led to Boyer having a conversation with Kaepernick and his then-49ers teammate Eric Reid in a hotel lobby ahead of their preseason game against the San Diego Chargers.
“Nate said you know when we have a fallen comrade in the military, we typically take a knee. I would encourage you to do that and hopefully one day you can feel strongly enough to stand for the anthem you know and Colin took his advice and did it.”
Kapernick followed Boyer’s advice and proceeded to kneel during the national anthem for much of the 2016 season.
Still in the past three years, Van Camp struggled with the flag being the vessel for Kaepernick’s message.
“We’re talking about racial inequality not the anthem, you know why is it there?” Van Camp questioned.
Kaepernick has always asserted his protest has nothing to do with the flag, but everything to do with shining light on an issue he feels has been overlooked far too long in our country.
To that, Van Camp says “”I get that. You know if you really want to make an impact you’ve got to do something bold and dramatic. He who dares wins right? I get that, it’s difficult for me to swallow that it’s the flag that he’s using as a platform, that’s hard but I get it.”
That’s where Van Camp’s feelings have stayed for much of the last few years.
Then, the nation watched in shock and horror as George Floyd, a Black Minnesota man, pled for his life for nearly nine minutes while a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.
The video of his death, and the nationwide protests that followed, changed everything for Van Camp, as he realized the very motto of the Green Berets, “De Oppresso Liber” meant he couldn’t simply express support, he had to go further for his black and colored countrymen and women.
“Now, I’m taking it personal,” Boyer said.
“The mottos of the Green Berets is De Oppresso Liber, and that’s a Latin phrase that means, ‘to liberate the oppressed.’ So for me, if Americans are being oppressed I don’t care if they’re Black, white, Asian, red, green, purple I don’t care. If they’re Americans, they’re my brothers and my sisters, if they’re being oppressed I’m not going to tolerate that, hell no.”
“I don’t have the capability to ever understand what it’s like to be a Black male in America, and I’m not going to say that I do but I am saying, I will do my best to end oppression, and racism in our country because it’s time to take things personally.”