Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert penned an essay for the website Medium Saturday, voicing his thoughts on the controversial national anthem protests that are attracting increasing participation among NFL players across the country.
Eifert, who has played in the NFL since 2013, made it clear where he stands when it comes to the issue.
"I know it would probably be best to stay out of it, but when you believe in something as much as I do, it gets to a point where you want both sides to be heard," he said.
The 27-year-old NFL player said he believes the real message behind the protests — racial inequality — has gotten lost in an overhyped conversation about whether players will sit or stand during the national anthem before every game.
"I stand because I love my country," Eifert said. "I stand because I want to honor the people putting their lives on the line for me on a daily basis in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard."
"I stand because my cousin is a pilot in the United States Air Force, risking his life flying F-15s in active war zones. He takes pride in his job protecting Americans, a sacrifice that all members of every branch of the United States military willfully take," he added.
Eifert explained that he plans to combat the negativity surrounding the NFL with his own personal practice: writing the name of a different military member on his shoes before every game.
"For the first game this weekend against the Baltimore Ravens, I am writing Pat Tillman’s name on my cleats," Eifert said Saturday. "And each game thereafter, I am going to write another person’s name from the United States military, whether active, retired, killed or missing in action, or a prisoner of war.
"These people are why I am standing because they gave me and everyone else the chance to have freedom and earn a living playing a sport I love," he added.
Eifert addressed the turmoil America currently faces, but ended his essay with the same hope many Americans feel at the end of the day.
"In this world of turmoil, I still believe in one thing strongly and that’s the flag and everything our country was built on," he said. "Fast-forward another 15 years and hopefully, we will all be able to look back at these years unified with pride to be Americans."