Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, in an interview Tuesday, ripped both San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for his ongoing protest during the national anthem and President Barack Obama for coming to the quarterback’s defence.
The former 2016 Republican presidential hopeful was ambushed by a TMZ reporter outside of Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC, on Tuesday. He was asked about the 49ers player, who stirred up national controversy with his decision to sit during the national anthem at the beginning of games as a silent protest of racial discrimination.
“You know, it’s sad when you see rich, spoiled athletes that don’t recognise what an incredible blessing this country is,” the Texas Republican said. “You know, it’s very easy when you’re sitting there rolling in millions of dollars to disrespect this country.”
“I come at it from a different perspective,” he continued. “I come from a perspective of my dad was imprisoned and tortured in Cuba, and America has meant what it’s meant to millions across the globe. It’s meant hope. It’s meant freedom.”
He added that he “was disappointed” that Obama defended Kaepernick.
Cruz said Obama essentially told Kaepernick, “That’s right, disrespect the flag.”
“That’s not the job of the president,” he said. “The president should be standing up for America. The president should be encouraging every American to honour the flag that many have bled and died for and to honour the freedom that it stands for.”
Kaepernick first sat in protest during the national anthem ahead of a 49ers preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. He said then that he would not “stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour.”
The quarterback said he planned on continuing to sit during the national anthem in future games, which he has since done. He was also sharply critical of both Trump and Clinton, saying that both are inadequate of the presidency.
Kaepernick has a long history of advocating for social justice online, although his prior posts did not garner similar attention.
Earlier this week, Obama said he didn’t “doubt” Kaepernick’s sincerity.
“When it comes to the flag and the national anthem and the meaning that holds for our men and women in uniform and those who fought for us — that is a tough thing for them to get past,” he said. “But I don’t doubt his sincerity. I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about. If nothing else, he’s generated more conversation about issues that have to be talked about.”
Kaepernick has insisted that his gesture is not anti-American, but an attempt to highlight perceived mistreatment of African-Americans by police.
Obama called Kaepernick’s decision “messy,” but said it’s “the way democracy works.”
“I’d rather have young people who are engaged in the argument and trying to think through how they can be part of our democratic process than people who are just sitting on the sidelines not paying attention at all,” Obama said.
Republican nominee Donald Trump had a vastly different message for the quarterback last week.
“I have followed it and I think it’s personally not a good thing, I think it’s a terrible thing,” the Manhattan billionaire said during during a radio interview with KIRO’s Dori Monson last week. “And maybe he should find a country that works better for him, let him try. It won’t happen.”