If you’re going to play quarterback in the National Football League, you’re going to have to be prepared for the occasional blitz.

Who knows if San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick was prepared for the fallout from his decision to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem. Kaepernick says his protest is meant to raise awareness over race and police relations in America.

My initial reaction was not so different from Kaepernick’s critics, who found his actions somewhat hypocritical coming from a back-up quarterback earning $19 million a year.

This country has obviously been very good to him. I can understand why veterans especially find Kaepernick’s protest offensive.

At the same time, what good are the Constitutional freedoms they fought to protect, if they’re not exercised from time to time? Can you imagine a Russian athlete being allowed to do the same thing?

It’s not the first time American athletes have used the public arena to make a point through non-violent protest. Think Muhammad Ali during the Vietnam War in ‘67 or Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos a year later. Nearly 50 years may have passed, but in many cities the conditions for protest remain the same.

So, why is the national anthem the lighting rod it is?

Teams used to stay in the locker room during the anthem. Over the past five years, the Department of Defense and the National Guard have shelled out more than $12 million to NFL teams to put on patriotic displays and put their teams on the field.

That’s called marketing. So I’m not sure why it has become such a litmus test for patriotism.

Last weekend, 11 players on teams throughout the NFL joined Kaepernick’s crusade. I don’t think this is going away.

The 49ers are donating $1 million toward improving communications between law enforcement and Bay Area communities. And Kaepernick is matching the contribution.

Give him some credit for putting his money where his mouthpiece is.

Call it tradition, or call it training, I will always stand and remove my hat for the national anthem. But in this country, peaceful protest is older than the flag for which we stand.

So I’ll respect Kaepernick’s decision to spend this pre-game ritual on one knee — as long as he spends the rest of the game on his back when he plays the Seahawks on New Year’s Day.

John’s opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of Denali Media or its employees.