Dwayne Allen has a pregame custom of taking a knee at the end of the national anthem and saying a prayer.
However, when the Indianapolis Colts tight end was spotted doing so Sunday, he became the target of angry fans who thought he was protesting the anthem.
That led current and former teammates to speak out in Allen's defense.
The team even released a video explaining Allen's actions and addressing the hateful comments he received.
And on Wednesday, Allen addressed his critics and had some outrage of his own.
"I was not protesting, I was praying," Allen told reporters. "Whether I was protesting or not, it doesn't give the right for others to use those words of hate. If you want to show patriotism, show patriotism, have pride about this great nation, show your love and devotion about this great nation. Don't use words of hate to try to show harm to someone else."
But Allen, who has been active in helping victims of domestic violence and won the Colts' man of the year award last season, also defended their right to speak out and acknowledged he would like to help them spread the message about inequality in America.
"I've wanted to shed the light on that issue and hopefully we as a great nation we can come to a place where we all say enough and we gather together and we say we do have the ability to show what true patriotism is and that's what we're going to do instead of sharing hate," Allen said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.