Former Green Beret, who advised Colin Kaepernick to kneel, talks about others taking a knee in solidarity

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has issued an apology saying the league was wrong in the way it handled its response to player protests in the past against police brutality and racial injustice.

Nate Boyer, the former Army Green Beret and NFL player who spoke with Colin Kaepernick about kneeling before the national anthem in 2016 spoke to ABC7 News Anchor Kristen Sze about his relationship with Kaepernick, recent protests and people taking a knee.

"It's been really cool to see certain law enforcement officers, people around the world, really, using that gesture as sort of a unifying stance," said Boyer during an interview on ABC7 News Tuesday.

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Boyer grew up in the East Bay and played for the Seahawks during the 2015 pre-season. He says he expects more NFL players will be kneeling in the future.

"We need to do better at holding each other accountable, not just law enforcement, everybody," said Boyer.

"We're definitely not a perfect country. I love this country, but we're not perfect," said Boyer. "We've got a lot of room to grow. This is an opportunity to do that now that there are more people acknowledging and open to the conversation. Let's move beyond the conversation and let's take action."

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Here's his full interview with ABC7 News Anchor Kristen Sze:

Kristen Sze:
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also has issued an apology saying the league was wrong in the way it handled its response to player protests in the past. East Bay native Nate Boyer from Pleasanton is a former NFL player and former Green Beret, played for the Seahawks during the 2015 preseason. He's also the man who suggested Colin Kaepernick kneel instead of sit during the national anthem. And Nate joins me today. Hey, Nate.

Nate Boyer:
Hey, how are you doing?

Kristen Sze: Good. Thanks for joining us. Hey, for those who don't remember, remind everybody of how you and Kaepernick initially connected and your role in his taking a knee to protest police brutality.

Nate Boyer:
Yeah, you know, I actually, like you said, I grew up in the Bay Area grew up a huge 49ers fan. When I was a kid, it was the Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Roger Craig, Ronnie Lott-era with four Super Bowls, and obviously Steve Young, as well. And then we weren't very good for a long time. So when Colin Kaepernick came along, I was immediately a big fan because this guy had a pretty immediate impact once he stepped on the field and I loved the way played the game and I just pulled for the guy.

And, you know, I went to college, after the time in the army, went to college at Texas and had that brief pre-season with the Seahawks at 34. But you know, I had a lot of different experiences before that leading up to that. And the one game I got to play in for Seattle, I stood on the field while the anthem played and it was a really emotional moment for me just thinking about my brothers and arms, guys that were still fighting overseas, those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice. I mean, I had to carry one of my best friends in a box draped with an American flag, so those symbols mean something very special to me. I wept when I hear that her that anthem that first time. A year later, you know, Colin is sitting on the bench during the national anthem and explaining, you know, this is for, doing this to speak out on on social injustice, police brutality, racial inequality, things like this. But my initial reaction was one of
hurt just because of what those symbols meant to me.

So I wrote this open letter to the Army Times, went pretty viral. Colin read it and actually reached out and wanted to meet with me. So I met with him, before the final preseason game in 2016, just a couple of months before the election. And through our conversation, he asked if there was a difference that I thought he could demonstrate that wouldn't offend people in the military. I said, "No, but you know, no matter what you do, some people will be offended. But I think taking a knee from my perspective, my opinion is more respectful." And so he decided to take a knee that night, and I stood next to him when they played the San Diego Chargers, the end of the season there, and I stood next to him during that anthem and some people booed. But if you look back on it now and where we're at today, it could also be seen as a very unifying moment: two people who maybe don't always see eye to eye, different opinions, one man kneeling, one man standing, you know, in support of rights and freedoms.

Kristen Sze:
I gotta ask you have you talked to Colin Kaepernick in the past couple of weeks after all this happened?

Nate Boyer:
No, I have not. I have not. I'd love to bad I'm sure he's plenty busy. He's got a lot on his plate. It's been really cool, though to see the reaction, you know, to see certain law enforcement officers, people around the world really using that gesture as sort of a unifying stance. So that's been pretty cool.

Kristen Sze:
So you two had disagreed, you two talked, and then you two came to respect and mutual respect and understanding. I want to ask you if you think that is what's happening on a broader front. Obviously last week, we first had Drew Brees, New Orleans quarterback, saying, you know, he thought that kneeling was antimilitary, a position you had taken before you talk to Kaepernick. So now he's apologized. Do you think his mind is changing? And same with Roger Goodell? Do you think minds are actually changing?

Nate Boyer:
I think they are you know, I mean, I think we're still in a pretty divided place. I think as a country if you look at how everybody sort of, you know, escape to their side, whether it's left or right politically, you know, we're pretty binary in a lot of ways. But I think these last 10 days or so, we have come together a lot more. And there is more empathy.

Speaking on Drew Brees real quick, I feel the same way he does when the anthem is played. But it's just that acknowledgment and understanding that not everybody feels that way. And not everybody has the same experience as you. And there's a lot of people that feel like that those symbols don't represent them as they should, you know, and that's really what it's all about just listening and having conversations.

Kristen Sze:
All right, so the NFL is listening to players now. And if you think that there is a willingness to accept, there are different ways to express whether it's patriotism or support. What do you think will happen on the sidelines during games in the coming seasons? What do you see as changes may be coming?

Nate Boyer:
I think we'll probably see a lot more people, players, taking a knee but what I hope more than anything is that there's a lot of action and follow-up and things do change. And we do improve law enforcement across the country. You know, we do better at holding each other accountable, not just law enforcement, everybody. And we come together and unite around this thing because things need to be fixed, we're definitely not a perfect country. I love this country, but we're not perfect. We've got a lot of room to grow. This is an opportunity to do that now that there are more people acknowledging and open to the conversation. Let's move beyond the conversation and let's take action.

Kristen Sze:
All right, we're out of time. So this is going to be the final yes or no question. You wrote a letter to President Trump in 2017. Will there be another letter to him?

Nate Boyer:
I don't, I don't know. Sorry. I haven't even thought about it! Now I have to make a decision, right.

Kristen Sze:
And we'll have to pursue that in the days ahead. Nate Boyer, really great talking to you. Thank you so much.

Nate Boyer:
Take care. Appreciate you.
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