Olivia Alvord, Staff Writer
On Thursday, Sept. 20, Saint Martin’s University hosted Nate Boyer, a former green beret and Seattle Seahawks player, as the first speaker for the Harvie Social Justice Lecture this year.
Boyer began his story describing his past, starting after his high-school graduation. Instead of pursuing a higher education, Boyer acquired a job on a fishing boat by conjuring up a bogus story about how he used to work on one in high school. As the years passed, he found it difficult to get other jobs due to his lack of college degree. He found himself lost, depressed, and wondering what he wanted to do with his life. In 2004, he saw the Time magazine article about the genocide that was happening in Darfur, Sudan. Overwhelmed with emotion, Boyer felt a calling to go there and do whatever he could to help. In just a period of two short weeks, he found himself in Sudan, lending his assistance to the needy civilians. As Sudanese militia swept throw the countryside, they wiped out populations–killing men and raping women. After spending some time doing various odd jobs for the women and children victims, Boyer came down with malaria. He explained that if he had not contracted it, he would not be where he is and would not have the same experiences that he does today. “Thank God for malaria,” he said. Ridden malaria and only having a radio to stay connected with the world, he felt a huge wave of patriotism and passion to join the military. He began researching what he wanted to do specifically and decided to “try out” for special forces. Their motto–free the oppressed—was accomplished by completing all missions for and with the indigenous people of the land.
His journey to the NFL started at the age of 29 and up until that time, he had never actually played football. When Boyer finally made the decision for higher education on his last deployment, he started training for football. He was accepted to the University of Texas, where he would go on to play four years of college football. When choosing a position, he explained that he purposefully chose one of the positions that no one really wanted to play to guarantee playing time. That decision, combined with his skill, got him on the scout team his very first tryout.
May 2015 had possibly the biggest day in Seahawks sports history and also one of the biggest days in Boyer’s life. It was draft day, and Boyer was being considered for the position of long-snapper on the Seattle Seahawks team after only picking up the position at age 34. Pete Carroll called Boyer personally just minutes after the last picks of the draft and congratulated him on being the “wild card” pick of that season. He said that he thought of himself as “representing the underdogs.” He had made it to the NFL with just a few years of playing under his belt and was with them for just four and a half short months.
During this time, the Colin Kaepernick controversy started. As a former military man, Boyer and Kaepernick had different opinions on many subjects. The Army Times actually approached him about writing a piece for them about his beliefs on the issue. At first he declined, but after giving it some serious thought, he decided to write an article entitiled: “If I had five minutes with Colin.” It was emotional and raw, and explained why it was so important for him to just have a few minutes of Kaepernick’s time to explain his thinking and to in turn, question him about his decisions. Within hours, his letter gained much media attention. He received hundreds of messages and emails from many interested in securing an interview with him. Not wanting to be in the spotlight, he only took an interview on the NFL Network, as he knew and trusted the hosts. After this interview, he received a phone call from Kaepernick’s publicist saying that Kaepernick had read the letter and wanted to meet to have a conversation.
Within a few days, Boyer was in San Diego conference center, surrounded by walls and walls of glass. Kaepernick came in very respectfully with one of his teammates and the three had a conversation and really got to know each other. Kaepernick then delved deeper into why they were really there. He described how he thought “the flag stood for oppression” and the social injustice, racism, and police brutality . He explained that he was not going to stand when the National Anthem played until there was a change. When Boyer prompted him asking what he thought change would look like, he answered that he was not sure, but he knew that it was not happening yet, and he did not feel that he could stand just yet. Boyer explained that, “the flag represents something different to each one of us and that image or feeling is based on our individual experiences. I want you to stand, but I want you to because it means something to you, and to me.”
Kaepernick then asked for Boyer’s advice and what he thought he could do to prompt the necessary change. Boyer asked Kaepernick if he would be willing to just stand with his teammates, not committing to anything else, but Kaepernick did not feel that he was ready for that just yet. Boyer explained that to him, just sitting on the bench, away from the team, looked disengaged and sort of unsportsmanlike. This is when he came up with the idea of kneeling. He could kneel instead of stand side-by-side with his teammates. Boyer explained that “kneeling has never done anyone wrong, and it is a much more powerful statement.” That conversation sparked an “ally-ship” between the two. Boyer stood by Kaepernick in one of the very first games where he knelt during the National Anthem.