President Barack Obama wants Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback whose national anthem protests have spurred similar action across the National Football League, to consider the “pain” of military families who take his kneeling personally.
The President was asked how he felt about NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem during a CNN town hall with members of the military and their families that aired on Wednesday. Obama urged both sides of the debate to consider how the other may feel. For Kaepernick and members of the NFL, that means military families and others who have sacrificed for the country. For those who question the protests, that means the families of unarmed black men and woman who have died at the hands of police and in other ways they find unjust.
“I want Mr. Kaepernick and others who are on a knee, I want them to listen to the pain that they may cause someone who, for example, had a spouse or a child who was killed in combat,” Obama said. “But I also want people to think about the pain that he may be expressing about somebody who has lost a loved one that they think was unfairly shot.”
The question was among the many tough ones Obama faced from the military crowd. He was asked why he does not use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.” Capt. Lauren Serrano quoted a Marine Corps study that showed mixed gender units perform worse and evacuate dangerous areas slower than all-male units in a question about the benefits of opening up combat positions to women. A widow, speaking through tears, asked the President about helping veterans with post traumatic stress disorder.
“This is something we have to talk about more,” Obama told Amanda Souza, whose son serves and whose husband committed suicide after experiencing trauma in combat. “There’s nothing weak about asking for help.”
The Town Hall came the same day Obama was hit with his first veto override of his presidency. The President addressed that early in the discussion with Jake Tapper, calling the action by Congress a “mistake.”