This story originally appeared in Mile High Sports Magazine. Read the full digital edition.

Colin Kaepernick was born in 1987, four months after I graduated high school. Brandon Marshall of the Denver Broncos was born two years after Kaepernick. The events of Sept. 11, 2001 occurred the day after Marshall turned 12. I was 32 years old with a wife and a young child when planes were hijacked and our country was attacked.

I couldn’t tell you any details of significant historical events between the years of 1981 and 1983. My parents were staunch Irish liberals from Massachusetts who were devastated when Ronald Reagan took the office of the presidency. All I heard about was how awful our country was about to become now that a movie star had become the leader of the free world. My father actually made up bumper stickers that said “Send Bonzo Back to Hollywood.” For those who are old enough, you will understand what that means. If you have no clue what I’m talking about, I shall leave you in the dark on purpose to illustrate that certain generations get things that other generations don’t.

It’s Sept. 8, 2001. My wife had flown back east to see her parents with our one-and-a-half-year-old son. I had taken that free weekend to do something I had heard a lot about, but had never done in the two years I had lived in Colorado. I decided to climb a 14er. I wasn’t in very good shape at the time, but what the heck. I had the day open and I had heard that Quandary Peak near Breckenridge Ski Resort was the easiest 14er in the state. It probably was/is the easiest climb, but not on that day.

We had an early, freak snowstorm a few days before my hike. Instead of a simple ridge climb to the summit, I had to post hole most of the way to the top. Step after arduous step, I was trudging through the snow thinking that if this was the easiest 14er to climb, it would certainly be my last. Eventually, I made it to the top. An older couple had brought champagne and was sharing it with a few of the brave souls who had the same idea that day. We toasted each other and the beauty that lay in front of us. Because of the proximity to Breckenridge, I was able to call my wife on my flip phone. With blue skies and seemingly endless snow-capped peaks in my vision, I told her that I loved her and our newborn very much. I told her what incredible beauty lay before my eyes. I told her I couldn’t wait to have her back in my arms and that together we would share this view someday soon. I hung up the phone and realized that this state, this country, I lived in offered me fantastic opportunities if I was willing to walk out the door and embrace its possibilities.

Three days later, the world changed when airplanes crashed into what we thought were indestructible buildings.

We were betrayed by our leaders leading up to 9/11 and lied to by our leaders after 9/11. The warning signs were ignored as the Bush presidency replaced the Clinton era. We had a leader who couldn’t be trusted with an intern, followed by a leader who was willing to allow his subordinates to falsify information in order to convince us to invade a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. Thousands died on 9/11 and thousands more perished over the next few years as our country sought revenge in an unjustified war. There were reasons to distrust our government. There were reasons to think that our country was betraying our trust. There were so many horrible things happening that it would make sense if nobody stood up to salute the flag.

Instead, most Americans wrapped themselves in the red, white and blue in order to not feel guilty that our government was shoving us down an evil wormhole. Later in the Bush presidency, the greed of America was at its zenith until billions of dollars were used to bail out the pigs of Wall Street. This incredible country had suffered terrorist attacks, an idiotic war and financial disaster all in a brief eight-year period. I have no doubts that if I was in my 20s, I would’ve been protesting. How could you not? I have no doubt if I was in my 20s, I would’ve been screaming bloody hell for revolution from the mountaintop. Instead, I was a little older, a little more mature and the view from my mountaintop was filled with beauty and hope.

Each generation has its seminal moment. Each generation has its form of protest and resistance. Those who are young yearn to fight what they feel is wrong in their own unique way based on their surroundings. But, in general, it is those who are older that fight for change in a productive manner.

We expect professional athletes to be mature beyond their years because of their supernatural ability to perform tasks that we mere mortals cannot comprehend. The pedestal we put them on is basically ridiculous. The attention they garner is absurd. The thought of a microscope being placed on average citizens in their 20s should be terrifying. Would you like to be questioned upon your decisions in the most formative years of your life? Nobody is asking athletes to simply play and shut up, but what’s fair is for us to ask people in their 20s to pause to reflect and take advice from those with more experience. It does not mean that young people can’t be agents of change. Youth and enthusiasm are two key components of actually getting things done; they are invaluable traits. However, experience is also invaluable, as is education and most folks in their 20s are suckling at the teat of life, not fully digested in the world surrounding us.

Action before education is foolish and sometimes dangerous. It was clear that Colin Kaepernick had no idea what he was talking about when he was questioned about sitting down for the anthem. In quick time, upon further discussion with those who were older and more experienced, he changed his tune. Brandon Marshall of the Broncos had zero clue about what he was doing. Smartly, he turned to more experienced people inside the Broncos organization who basically saved his PR bacon by instructing him on what to do and how to do it. To Marshall’s credit, he heeded and acted upon good advice, but it doesn’t mean that his uneducated action was justified in the first place. All it means is that he pivoted.

Have you ever watched police brutality videos on YouTube? I recommend you do that sometime. You will quickly understand how influential a series of horrible videos on the internet can mold the mind of young people who consume almost all of their information from that platform. This is not to say that horrible actions by the police don’t happen; they do, sometimes in unforgiveable droves. However, to think that the world consists of nothing but horrible crimes perpetrated by law enforcement is to also think that every cat is freaked out by cucumbers. In our household, we were very disappointed when our cat, Glameow, didn’t freak out when a large green cucumber was placed in his path. We had seen an endless stream of videos where hysterical reactions seemed guaranteed by the shocking cucumber. In our case, it simply didn’t happen.

Not everything you see on the internet is true. Not everything presented by our government is true. The masses have been manipulated by evil and greed for centuries. Any blind trust of our officials is foolish. However, belief that we are surrounded by nothing but evil is also naive. What we all have to do is question authority while we push forward to improve the lives of those around us. Protest without a plan is simply an immature expression based on a lack of education. It is not to be taken seriously. The reaction to such protest is predictable and falls along racial and political lines; time to listen to each other has been swallowed by soundbites and media manipulation. In a society where the loudest person is right, it is time to be quiet and listen.

It is obvious that this current generation of athletes hasn’t grown up in a time where they felt attacked by terrorists. They feel attacked by America itself. This is their truth.

However foolish it feels to those of us who are older and think that we have seen worse, it doesn’t mean that we should discount their feelings. For young people, they need to feel the burden of inspection to their feelings. Too many great leaders have died for their right to express themselves for them to discard the notion that history matters. The Montgomery Bus Boycott finished in 1955 after a full year of protest. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. Change, as painful as it can be, takes time. This fact is a tough lesson for those that live on YouTube. Instant satisfaction and millions of dollars can make any young person intellectually lazy, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have a point.

I would never protest the national anthem. I have seen the beauty of America and have known too many people who have sacrificed their lives for the freedom that the flag represents. That is my truth. Did I feel that strongly before I had stood on top of Quandary Peak, thinking deeply about my life with a loving wife and beautiful new baby? No. The answer is no. Rising for the anthem and taking off my hat, seemed like a jingoistic gesture that fit better with a NASCAR crowd than a liberal democrat from the Northeast. It was an empty gesture that I grudgingly went along with to be respectful to those that were sitting next to me at a hockey game. Usually, I was quick to sit or put my ball cap back on my head. What did I really know?

I didn’t volunteer. I was trying to build my own career through fits and stumbles. I was a privileged, empty shell that was given an easy path to college and a professional life. Nothing had been taken away from me, so I wasn’t very willing to give anything back. It wasn’t until I felt it all could be taken away from me in a blink of an eye that I realized the flag represented me. It represented all that I could do if I simply opened my mind. Moving forward, I realized that the flag and the anthem was a moment of reflection that what was happening in front of me was good, not evil. When the anthem is played it is a moment to say thank you to everybody that made the event you are about to experience possible. The anthem doesn’t represent oppression; it represents opportunity and love.

Yet, there is an anger that every generation feels that is palpable and also difficult to understand how to handle. It is every generation’s right to protest injustice, and, indeed, every American generation has had substantial injustice to confront. With time those who are younger will realize their protests are justified but not unique. They will realize in time that each generation has had to deal with brutal treatment and unfairness. They will realize in time that they can either be part of the problem or part of the solution.

With time, I have realized the destructive nature of the media to paint things with a broad brush and to pick sides rather than to listen constructively. I don’t have all the answers, but I have learned that I will know more as I listen and grow with time itself.

I would urge those that decide to protest our national anthem to listen more to those who have experienced time. I would urge those who are so quick to condemn protestors the patience to listen to what they are saying. I would urge folks to be kind to each other on a daily basis and do what you can to make something – anything – better for your neighbor. Being respectful of the anthem doesn’t mean you are wrapping yourself blindly in the flag, but rather it’s an expression of your own truth.

For a moment, be thankful, be quiet and listen. Then, please…

Do something. We all need to do something, because being satisfied with the status quo is simply un-American.