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Trump calls Kaepernick protest ‘very bad for the spirit of the country’

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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump hinted Wednesday that he would consider firing San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick if he owned the team.

“He’s making a tremendous amount of money. He’s making a tremendous amount of money. He is [living] the American dream. He’s trying to make a point. But I don’t think he is making it the correct way. Personally, if it was me, I would not be happy if I were the team owner,” Trump said.

Trump discussed Kaepernick, who has refused to stand for the national anthem at games, during a back and forth with Bill O’Reilly. The Fox News host repeatedly tried to get Trump, the former owner of the defunct New Jersey Generals franchise, to say how he would handle Kaepernick’s protest.

“I wouldn’t be happy, they are paying him all of this money,” Trump said. “And I think what he is doing is very bad for the spirit of the country. At the same time, he has the right to protest, and that’s one of the beautiful things about the country.”

O’Reilly continued to press. “See, you are the owner,” he told Trump of the hypothetical. “It’s your stadium, all right? It’s paying customers. It’s your dime. This is right in your bailiwick, OK? So he’s protesting on your dime, doing something that offends you. Would you take action again him?

“I tell you it offends me,” Trump said. “I guess he probably lost a starting position because something happened to him. He went downhill fast. And, frankly, that’s OK. But I would not be a happy camper. I’m not going to tell you what I would do,” he continued.

After O’Reilly asked Trump again, the mogul replied, “Let’s keep the headlines down to a minimum.” (Trump had previously suggested that Kaepernick “find a country that works better for him.”)

From left, Eric Reid, Colin Kaepernick and Eli Harold of the San Francisco 49ers kneel on the sidelines during the national anthem. (Photo: Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
From left, Eric Reid, Colin Kaepernick and Eli Harold of the San Francisco 49ers kneel on the sidelines during the national anthem. (Photo: Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

For his part, Kaepernick also sparked headlines earlier this week by sharply criticizing both Trump and his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. The quarterback, who says his protest is against racial discrimination in the U.S., said Tuesday that the major-party candidates were both “proven liars” and that “it almost seems like they’re trying to debate who’s less racist.”

At a Wednesday event, President Obama also addressed Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the anthem.

“As I’ve said before, I believe that us honoring our flag and our anthem is part of what binds us together as a nation,” Obama said at a CNN town hall.

“And I think that for me — for my family, for those who work in the White House, we recognize what it means to us — but also what it means to the men and women who are fighting on our behalf,” the president continued. “But I’m also always trying to remind folks that part of what makes this country special is that we respect people’s rights to have a different opinion.”

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