SANTA CLARA (CBS SF) — Eric Reid, the 49er safety who was one of the first players to take a knee in solidarity alongside along former Niner quarterback Colin Kaepernick last season, on Wednesday spoke out about the silent protest.

That gesture last season has spawned controversy across the nation that exploded in the last week.

Reed said that at first he was disturbed and upset over President Donald Trump’s comments about NFL players who kneel during the national anthem.

But in that anger, he sensed an opportunity.

And being pragmatic about it, I’m happy that we can use this opportunity to further the conversation, said Reid.

After Trump’s comments this past weekend, Reid wrote a 900-word op-ed piece in the New York Times, titled “Why Colin Kaepernick And I Decided To Take A Knee.”

He said it all began in early 2016 when Alton Sterling was killed by police in Reid’s hometown of Baton Rouge.

Reid says it could’ve happened to any one of his family members. He wanted to do something.

They talked it over with Nate Boyer, a former Green Beret and NFL player.

Reid and Kaepernick chose to kneel as a gesture of respect to the military, but to protest social injustice and police brutality.

In the piece Reid wrote, “I love my country and I’m proud to be an American. But, to quote James Baldwin, Exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

On Wednesday, Reid answered questions from the press for 22 minutes. Not a single one was about football.

“These conversations make people uncomfortable. And I think that’s a way for them to deflect from the issues that we really want to talk about and steer the narrative in a different direction, said Reid.

He also spoke about how people of color couldn’t apply for social programs from when FDR signed the New Deal in the 1930s until when the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act were signed in the mid-1960s.

“So you have decades on top of decades where the country prioritized the needs of one group of people and deprioritized the needs of another group of folks. And that’s why we are where we are today,” said Reid. “30 years of not being able to use the GI Bill for our veterans. 30 years of not being able to get mortgage loans for housing. 30 years of all the programs the New Deal put in place that black people didn’t have access to. And today is the aftermath of that.”

This is a contract year for Reid, who knows speaking out could get him blacklisted.

In his op-ed he wrote, “To quote Dr. Martin Luther King, A time comes when silence is betrayal. And I choose not to betray those who are being oppressed.”

Reid said he will continue to have faith in his convictions and fight for what he believes.

“If I lose money, if I lose my job, I will be satisfied that I did what I felt was right for people that don’t have a voice,” said Reid.