SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/AP) — Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback and Black Lives Matter activist Colin Kaepernick set off a social media firestorm Sunday with a Twitter post critical of the Fourth of July holiday.

On Twitter, Kaepernick posted: “Black ppl have been dehumanized, brutalized, criminalized + terrorized by America for centuries, & are expected to join your commemoration of “independence”, while you enslaved our ancestors. We reject your celebration of white supremacy & look forward to liberation for all.”

The post has generated an avalanche of comments both supportive and critical of his comments.

Kaepernick has been a polarizing figure ever since he took a knee while with the 49ers during the national anthem to take a stand against police brutality and racial injustice in 2016. At the time, he was mostly alone.

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Politicians, team owners and fellow players criticized him, fans burned his jersey and he was booed even at home. Four years later, his protest is widely viewed as prescient of the current Black Lives Matter movement.

Even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has apologized to players for not listening to them earlier and encouraged them to protest peacefully.

“We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people,” Goodell said in a video released Friday. “We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter. I personally protest with you and want to be part of the much needed change in this country.”

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George Floyd’s death, which ignited nationwide protests over racial injustice and police brutality, awakened many people to the root of the issues that led to Kaepernick’s peaceful demonstration — an expression meant to raise awareness of such issues, not demean the flag or the anthem. The 32-year-old Kaepernick hasn’t played in the NFL since 2016.

“The protest is really trying to hold us accountable for the things we say we believe in. It’s about equality and justice for all,” said Houston Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills, who has been taking a knee since Week 1 of the 2016 season.

San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Kaepernick deserves respect and admiration for starting the protest. Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll praised him for his courage and sacrificing his career. Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy compared Kaepernick to Muhammad Ali.

“There’s a lot of parallels between Colin and my father,” said Ali’s daughter, Khaliah. “He stands 100 percent with integrity no matter the cost. He made an unwavering commitment for the betterment of his people and took an unapologetic stance against injustice. I have had many people attempt to discourage our support of Colin, which is unthinkable to me. He is a friend to our family, he is loved and honored.”

The NFL and its teams have voiced their support for equality and called for change. In a video 2018 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and several of his peers asked the league to “condemn racism and the systemic oppression of black people” and “admit wrong in silencing players from peacefully protesting.”

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