The president has briefly defended Kaepernick’s right to protest in recent weeks, and discussed the matter at length when asked. He noted that it’s important for "everybody to listen to each other."
“Well, as I've said before, I believe that us honoring our flag and our anthem is part of what binds us together as a nation. But I also always try to remind folks that part of what makes this country special is that we respect people's rights to have a different opinion,” Obama said. He added that protesters should be aware that people "fight" for them to be able to express themselves.
“The test of our fidelity to our Constitution, to freedom of speech, to our Bill of Rights, is not when it's easy, but when it's hard," he continued. "We fight sometimes so that people can do things that we disagree with ... As long as they're doing it within the law, then we can voice our opinion objecting to it but it's also their right.”
Obama stressed the value of both sides of the conversation surrounding the anthem, and Kaepernick has made clear that his protest is not toward the military. He has continued to advance the discussion about racial injustice and police brutality in recent weeks.
“I want (the protesters) 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," Obama added. “But I also want people to think about the pain he may be expressing about somebody who's lost a loved one that they think was unfairly shot.”
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