photo credit: © Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen

Navy veteran Buttigieg defends NFL players 'take a knee' protests

May 23, 2019 - 3:57 pm

Pete Buttigieg, the Democratic candidate for president who is also a post 9/11 military veteran, says that NFL players who took a knee during the national anthem were “exercising a right that I had put my life on the line to defend."

Buttigieg appeared Thursday at a Washington Post Live event.

The comment came in response to a question from The Post’s Robert Costa about how Buttigieg, a Navy veteran, felt about the NFL protests.

“The point of defending free speech is not that you expect to be perfectly aligned with every speech act that is protected,” he told The Washington Post. “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 2016, NFL players, starting with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem as a way to protest police brutality against African Americans.  President Trump blasted the protests, bringing veterans and the flag into the argument.

Last year, then-candidate for Senate Beto O'Rourke went viral with his answer regarding the NFL protests.  O'Rourke is not a veteran.

Related: NFL linebacker Alejandro Villanueva, a military veteran, on the NFL protests

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