Aug 14, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; New York Giants tackle Justin Pugh (67) in a preseason NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Colin Kaepernick knew there would be consequences for standing up for what he believes in by refusing to stand during the national anthem.

The San Francisco 49ers quarterback was spotted sitting down during Friday night’s anthem at Levi’s Stadium. After the game, he spoke with NFL.com’s Steve Wyche and gave his reasons for doing so.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL.com. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Count New York Giants offensive tackle Justin Pugh among those who do not appreciate the way in which he chose to protest.

No doubt there are many who would agree with Pugh’s stance on the matter.

On the other side of the coin, Kaepernick has every right to express his obviously strong belief by sitting down during the anthem. The NFL has already made it clear that Kaepernick is not obligated to stand during the anthem.

The 49ers also released a statement, per Pro Football Talk, supporting Kaepernick’s right to express himself in this way.

“The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony,” the team said. “It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose to participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”

Whichever side of the fence you find yourself on this day, just be thankful that we can have this conversation without any fear of being thrown behind bars.

The men and women who put their lives on the line for the American flag fought and died to protect Kaepernick and Pugh from being afraid to speak their minds.

With that in mind, let’s all be respectful during the course of what will likely be a heated debate in the coming days, weeks and months.