Colin Kaepernick is a hero. Colin Kaepernick is Un-American. Ever since the day when Colin Kaepernick decided to kneel during the National Anthem before the San Francisco 49ers’ third preseason game, opinions have been flying. Everybody seems to have one. But when you step back and look at the situation objectively, things change. Kaepernick is utilizing his rights as an American. Kaepernick is a scumbag. These statements laced with strong adjectives are not a fair portrayal of the situation at hand.

The issue here is too many people are focusing on Kaepernick’s method of protest and not the issue that he is trying to change. Not only that, but the whole situation is indicative of a larger problem. Athletes are supposed to be role models that the community looks to as a leader and source of inspiration. But when they are met with this level of backlash, it understandably turns them off from actively advocating for issues they are passionate about. We have flipped the script on Kaepernick. “Be a role model, but don’t offend me by pointing out an issue that I’ve ignored,” we are telling him.

People have used an inflated idea of “patriotism” as a shield to the larger issue at hand. You don’t have to like everything Kaepernick does – I for one, don’t appreciate the socks he wore depicting police as pigs – but it doesn’t give you a right to willful ignorance. Those who say kneeling for the National Anthem disrespects the military that serves the United States are a key example of this. Many veterans have come out in support of Kaepernick, and even started the hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick. Instead of finding things out for themselves, people are jumping on board with emotionally charged headlines that contain only a sliver of the truth.

It’s a problematic double standard in the world we live in. People bemoan the lack of good leaders in our society while attacking those who try to make a change. They complain about ignorance of others, but don’t bother to do research themselves. It’s bigger than a conflict in professional sports – it involves everything from our politics to our education. It’s a cancerous mindset that exists in too many Americans. Many people cling tightly to half-formed opinions and become enraged when confronted by opinions that differ from their own.

If we want change to happen, we need to understand it’s not going to be pretty. It takes actions that will almost certainly offend many people, and the truth is, that’s okay. We have a childish mentality that if anyone disagrees with us, we can run home crying, complaining about how they were offensive. We also think it’s okay to attack others because they express ideas that differ from the norm. The sooner we move on from this close-mindedness the sooner we can move on and address issues that matter.