During a town hall with members of the military, President Obama was asked what he thought of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest against the national anthem prior to football games.
Obama appeared to equate the two positions — pointing out that he wanted Kaepernick to understand why people might be angry at his protest, while also urging military families to listen to the NFL players who joined Kaepernick by drawing attention to the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I want Mr. Kaepernick and others who are on a knee, I want them to listen to the pain that that may cause somebody who for example had a spouse or a child who was killed in combat and why it hurts them to see somebody not standing,” he said. “But I also want people to think about the pain that he may be expressing about somebody whose lost a loved one that they think was unfairly shot.”
Obama made his comments during a town hall at Fort Lee led by CNN host Jake Tapper. The president explained that allowing Kaepernick to protest was “part of what makes this country special” and called it an important symbol of free speech.
“The test of our fidelity to our Constitution, to freedom of speech, to our Bill of Rights, is not what is easy but what is hard,” he said. “We find sometimes that people can do things that we disagree with but that’s what freedom means in this country.”
Obama also reminded the military that Kaepernick was acting within the law, which was part of democracy.
“As long as they are doing it within the law, we can voice our opinion and objection to it, but it’s also their right,” he said.
He explained that Kaepernick’s protest could serve as a teaching moment, if people would only take the time to listen to both sides.
“I think it’s also important to recognize sometimes out of the controversies, we start getting into a conversation and I want everyone to listen to each other,” he said.