Nebraska linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey gave a statement in a press conference on Monday about the response he and a handful of teammates received after kneeling for the national anthem before Saturday's tilt at Northwestern.

What he recounted was deplorable.

(Warning: NSFW Language)

Those people on social media, peers and Nebraska fans who shared such disgraceful comments with Rose-Ivey and his teammates should feel nothing but shame.

I don't want to get too political and into the issue behind Colin Kaepernick and many other athletes' decisions to kneel or raise a fist for the national anthem, but I do want to say one thing: leave these athletes alone.

Don't get me wrong: I love America and the opportunities and freedoms that come with being a citizen. I am so grateful for everything our troops on American soil and overseas are doing for our society and safety. I will never be able to properly and fully express my gratitude to those who serve and have served.

I believe in respecting the flag and the symbol for which it stands, but I don't believe in the deification of the flag. The flag is not holy, nor is it the reason we stand in the first place.

One of the great joys of living in America and being an American citizen is our ability to speak out on issues. We have the liberty of free speech, and that goes beyond what can be put into words. It also applies to the national anthem.

Anyone, whether a collegiate athlete, doctor, lawyer, journalist, etc. has the right to choose whether they stand for the national anthem. It doesn't matter their reasoning behind the decision: it's their right.

Are there better ways to promote the issues Kaepernick, Rose-Ivey and other athletes are bringing attention to? Maybe. But they have a right as American citizens, and just like we want them to respect the flag, we have to respect their right to kneel.

Under no circumstance is it acceptable to tell these players they deserve to be hanged, nor is it okay to suggest these players should be killed or lynched.

Living in America means we have certain rights and freedoms. We don't get to pick and choose which of these freedoms matter. These are rights given to all American citizens, and we must respect that.

Whether you agree with the reasoning behind the anthem protests or the act of the protest itself, be smart. It's one thing to disagree, but to cross the line and threaten these athletes or suggest cruel punishment or death is intolerable.

God bless America.