Colin Kaepernick could have been one of the 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL, says Anthony Lynn, who bemoans that the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback's message was lost in the controversy surrounding his 2016 protests.
As protests have spread across the United States in response to the death of George Floyd, an African American man who lost his life in the custody of Minneapolis police officers last week, Kaepernick and the stance he took against racial injustice and police brutality have come into focus once more.
Protesters throughout the USA have been seen taking a knee, which is what Kaepernick famously did throughout the 2016 NFL season during the playing of the national anthem.
He has not played a game since and last February settled a grievance with the NFL, having accused owners of colluding to keep him out of the league.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Chargers head coach Lynn said: "People completely misunderstood Colin and what he was trying to do.
"People talked about disrespecting the flag... the flag covers a lot — patriotism and civil rights and other things. And Colin was speaking out against the injustice and a lot of people didn't catch on to that because it was happening during the national anthem.
"They thought it was disrespectful to the flag. I was surprised by the number of people who didn't know why he was protesting.
"I got letters from people. I had people walk up to me and ask, "Coach, what are you going to do if someone on your team protests?" And I had to explain to them that Colin is taking a knee for criminal justice [reform] and police brutality and once you broke it down, they were like, "Oh, we didn't know that. We thought he was protesting the flag." And that was the case for a lot of people I came across.
"A lot of people for their own political reasons pushed out the wrong narrative. A lot of people didn't catch on as to why he took a knee. I understood and applauded him for it.
"I thought it was a shame that Colin's message got lost because people kept bringing up patriotism. It was brave for him to do that.
"I have a lot of respect for that young man standing up for something outside of the "Big 3" — God, family, football — and I have to say social justice right now is challenging my priorities. Right now I can't think of anything besides social justice.
"I know when you look at 32 quarterbacks in the National Football League, Colin could have been one of the 32. If not, he could have been a quality backup. For me being an African-American head coach, this is tough."
Addressing the unrest in the wake of the death of Floyd, Lynn expressed his belief that nothing has changed since 1992, when there were riots across Los Angeles in response to the acquittal of four police officers for the usage of excessive force in the arrest and beating of Rodney King.
"I've read some good statements. I read Brian Flores from the Dolphins and I agree 100 per cent with him. I read Doc Rivers' statement and those guys spoke from the heart," said Lynn. "I think statements are needed to bring awareness to the situation.
"But I want to do something too. I don't want to just put [a statement] out there because it's the right thing to do. I want change... so I guess it starts with having this conversation and talking things out. In 1992 I remember watching L.A. burn and here we are in 2020 and I'm watching it again and it just hit me, nothing has changed.
"I haven't done anything to make this a better place for my son. I remember having the talk with him when he was 16 about how to handle police and then at age 30 I called him up and just had the talk with him again because I'm so scared. I want to do something but to be honest with you, I don't know what that is."
Lynn spoke of his dismay after joining a protest in Huntington Beach and speaking to those leading the demonstrations, only to be informed there was no plan or endgame.
He added: "The Chargers have done more in the community than just about any organisation I've been with. I've been out in the community, talking with Mayor [Eric] Garcetti and I've been to the juvenile detention centers to encourage young men to do something positive with their life when they get out, and City Council people about making L.A. a better place.
"But this stuff that's taking place with police brutality and unarmed black men dying and white people feeling like they can use their privilege to threaten black people like that white woman did in Central Park, that's ridiculous. How do we affect that type of change? Where's the accountability for that kind of [expletive]? That's where I'm at right now. I'm angry, I'm [expletive] off and I don't want to just put out a pretty statement."