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President Obama attended a presidential town hall hosted by CNN's Jake Tapper on Wednesday night. During the event, which was in front of a military audience in Fort Lee, Virginia, he was asked what he thought about Colin Kaepernick's ongoing protest during the national anthem.
The audience member asked, “Lately, some players in the NFL have been choosing to take a knee during the national anthem, a time which I believe should be reserved to respect our service members. As commander in chief, how do you feel about those NFL players choosing this respected time to voice their opinions?”
The President responded with a nod to both the veterans who may feel disrespected by the protest, and to Kaepernick and others who are choosing to use their platform to take a stand on the issue of police violence against African Americans.
His answer, as reported by CNN:
"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.
“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. 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.
“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. 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.”
This is not the first time Obama has spoken about the NFL star's protest. Earlier this month, Obama said that Kaepernick "cares about some real legitimate issues" and "generated more conversation around some topics that need to be talked about."