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Nike executives and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick should look themselves in the mirror today. Just do it. Look in the mirror and assess what you believe in.

On this day 17 years ago, Americans witnessed the selfless dedication of first responders.

Terrorists flew commercial jets into the Pentagon and the Twin Towers in New York City. Knowing the burning towers were death traps, first responders rushed in with full knowledge they were likely to die. They just did their jobs, without hesitation, knowing they might never see their spouses and children again. They did this so that others might live.

They believed in something other than themselves. It meant sacrificing everything.

When the Twin Towers collapsed, we lost 343 firefighters, eight emergency medical technicians and 61 cops. Including all Sept. 11 attacks, 244 law enforcement officers — of nearly all racial and ethnic backgrounds — died as a direct result of the attacks.

As these officers chose to risk their lives that day, they did so without regard for the religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation or color of anyone they hoped to save. They did their jobs, mostly for salaries of $50,000 or less.

These are the heroes who keep America safe and prosperous for everyone else.

Talented individuals are free to excel because of first responders. Kaepernick provides the perfect example.

The last time Kaepernick worked in professional football, he played under a contract worth up to $126 million — about 252,000 percent more than the annual wage of the average cop who died on Sept. 11.

When Kaepernick knelt for the flag, starting a trend, he enjoyed a right of expression upheld by cops. When he offends detractors with provocative antics, law enforcement officers ensure his safety. They protect his expensive home, his fancy cars and his other belongings.

Kaepernick has every right to kneel, and fans have every right and reason to respect his stated cause. He objects to a tiny fraction of law enforcement officers who have murdered, abused and committed other atrocities against black people.

It is not the kneeling that makes Kaepernick a sorry choice to represent Nike. It is the socks.

When Nike chose Kaepernick as the symbol of its “Believe in something” ad campaign, the company partnered with a man who believes first responders are animals. He said as much in 2016, by trotting onto the football field with socks depicting police officers as pigs.

“The same league that prohibits the Dallas [Cowboys] football club from honoring the slain officers in their community with their uniforms stands silent when Kaepernick is dishonoring police officers with what he’s wearing on the field,” said Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, as quoted by USA Today.

Kaepernick acknowledged the socks in an Instagram post, as photos of his ankles went viral.

Kaepernick and Nike should hear this loud and clear. Our law enforcement professionals are not pigs. They are brave men and women willing to sacrifice everything for little in return. They do so because they believe in something. They believe in this country and the opportunity it affords talented athletes and the companies making their shoes.

The Gazette Editorial Board

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