By Evan Bleier / May 24, 2019

Pete Buttigieg Attacks Trump Over Stance on NFL Anthem Kneelers

Buttigieg said Trump might understand "if the president had served"

Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

During an appearance at a Washington Post Live event, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg was asked about an issue President Donald Trump has repeatedly harped on and used to rile up his base during the course of his presidency: NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.

Buttigieg, who served in Afghanistan as a member of the U.S. Navy, said he saw the kneeling NFL players, including Colin Kaepernick, as Americans exercising “a right that I had put my life on the line to defend.”

“The point of defending free speech is not that you expect to be perfectly aligned with every speech act that is protected,” he said. “It’s that that’s a fundamental American freedom. It’s a huge part of what makes America, America. And when that same flag was on my shoulder, I didn’t think of the flag as something that itself as an image was sacred; I thought of it as something that was sacred because of what it represented. One of the very things it represented is the freedom of speech, and that’s one of the reasons I served.”

In a shorter interview with TMZ in New York, Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend in Indiana, went after Trump directly for his criticism of Kaepernick and other players who chose to kneel.

“If the president had served, maybe he’d feel a little more strongly about some of those freedoms,” he said. “And, I get that there’s a lot of strong opinions about this, but that’s part of why we served.”

Kaepernick, who Trump was alluded to as a “son of a bitch,” reached a settlement in his collusion case against the NFL in February.

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