White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday that he doesn't agree with embattled San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to sit down for the national anthem to protest perceived racial injustice, but defended his right to do so.
Earnest told reporters Monday that he has not spoken to President Obama and doesn't know his views on the firestorm surrounding Kaepernick's decision to protest the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner before preseason football games.
"What I can say is that I certainly don't share the views that Mr. Kaepernick expressed after the game explaining the reasoning for his actions," Earnest said.
But he said the United States Constitution protects the quarterback's freedom of speech and the right to exercise it any way he chooses as long as it doesn't disenfranchise someone else's rights.
"We surely all acknowledged his right to those views and to express them in whatever setting he chooses," Earnest said. "However objectionable we find them, he certainly is entitled to express them."
Kaepernick plunged himself into the center of a highly charged national debate over the treatment of blacks and minorities in the United States, by refusing to stand for the anthem in a least two preseason games, the latest before the 49ers' loss to Green Bay Friday night.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," he told NFL media in an interview after the game. "To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way."
"There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder," he said, in apparent reference to recent police killings of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana, both black men in their 30s, in early July.
Kaepernick did not mention the five officers killed in Dallas by a heavily armed sniper angry with law enforcement, or the three officers fatally shot in Baton Rouge in the weeks following the deaths of Castile and Sterling.
Several black NFL or former NFL players have slammed Kaepernick for his national anthem protest in recent days. Former teammate Alex Boone, who played offensive guard for five seasons with Kaepernick, is one of several NFL players with military connections who has been highly critical of his form of protest. Boone, now a Minnesota Viking, has a brother who is a Marine and served in Iraq.
"You should have some f—-ing respect for people who served, especially people that lost their life to protect our freedom," he said. "We're out here playing a game, making millions of dollars. People are losing their life, and you don't have the common courtesy to do that. That just drove me nuts."