Colin Kaepernick Responds to Ruth Bader Ginsburg Criticizing His National Anthem Protest

October 13th 2016

Laura Donovan

On Monday, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called football player Colin Kaepernick's protest of the national anthem "dumb and disrespectful," prompting disappointment among fans of the judge who consider her to be a progressive icon.

On Tuesday, Kaepernick told the The Toronto Star that Ginsburg's critique is "disappointing," because it focuses on his method of protest, and not the message he is trying to send.


“It isdisappointing to hear a Supreme Court justice call a protest against injustices and oppression ‘stupid, dumb’ in reference to players doing that,” he said by his locker on Tuesday, according to the Toronto Star.

Ginsburg, who has been on the Supreme Court for nearly 25 years, told Yahoo's Katie Couric on Monday that Kaepernick and others protesting the national anthem have behaved in a "dumb and disrespectful" manner:

"I think it’s dumb and disrespectful. I would have the same answer if you asked me about flag burning. I think it’s a terrible thing to do, but I wouldn’t lock a person up for doing it. I would point out how ridiculous it seems to me to do such an act. If they want to be stupid, there’s no law that should be preventive. If they want to be arrogant, there’s no law that prevents them from that. What I would do is strongly take issue with the point of view that they are expressing when they do that.”


Kaepernick said the criticism that his protest is "stupid" dismisses the problems with racism that he is trying to highlight:

“I was reading an article and it refers to white critique of black protests and how they try to delegitimize it by calling it ‘idiotic, dumb, stupid,’ things of that nature, so they can sidestep the real issue. As I was reading that I saw more and more truth how this has been approached by people in power and white people in power in particular.”

Ginsburg has since called her remarks "inappropriately dismissive and harsh," according to MSNBC/NBC national reporter Irin Carmon:

Back in September, HuffPost political blogger Kelly Scaletta noted that dismissing Kaepernick is a convenient way to disregard his entire message. He wrote: 

Is it really about the messenger or just censoring the message?

Rather than focus on the single biggest and most pervasive issue our nation has faced since before it was even born, we continue to kick the can down the road, bickering over petty things like the appropriate homage to the flag or who is qualified to talk about it.

What is Kaepernick's message?

Kaepernick started protesting the national anthem during a preseason game in August, telling the National Football League Media that he cannot "stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color."

"To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way," he said. "There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

Kaepernick has received both criticism and applause for his statement. Though President Barack Obama has defended Kaepernick's right to protest, he has also said it's important to understand why such a protest could hurt people who have lost loved ones in combat.

The athlete himself told the Toronto Star that his critics are "getting too caught up in the flag," which he refuses to prioritize more than actual lives:

“At the end of the day the flag is just a piece of cloth and I am not going to value a piece of cloth over people’s lives. That’s just not something I can do, it’s not something I feel morally right doing and my character won’t allow me to do that.”

[H/T Mic]

Update 10/14/2016 12:34 p.m. PT: This article has been updated to include a statement from Ginsburg.