Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a statement on Friday calling her remarks on San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protests “inappropriately dismissive and harsh”:
Some of you have inquired about a book interview in which I was asked how I felt about Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players who refused to stand for the national anthem. Barely aware of the incident or its purpose, my comments were inappropriately dismissive and harsh. I should have declined to respond.
Ginsburg is beloved by many for her forthright commentary. But the justice drew ire this week when she commented on the Kaepernick-inspired protests against police brutality in a Yahoo News interview with Katie Couric.
Ginsburg said she recognized players are within their rights to protest but ultimately thought “it’s really dumb of them.” She went so far as saying that taking a knee during the national anthem was equivalent to flag burning: “I think it’s a terrible thing to do.”
Although Kaepernick quickly began taking a knee rather than sitting to combat accusations that he was disrespecting American military service members by not standing during the national anthem, detractors have continued to question his loyalty to his country. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) went so far as insinuating Kaepernick is "sympathetic to ISIS" simply because he has a Muslim girlfriend.
Kaepernick responded to Ginsburg’s comments Tuesday, calling her statement “disappointing,” but added that her initial response was not surprising, given the way “white people in power in particular” respond to protests by people of color.
“I was reading an article and it refers to white critique of black protests and how they try to de-legitimize it by calling it ‘idiotic, dumb, stupid,’ things of that nature, so they can sidestep the real issue,” Kaepernick told the San Jose Mercury News. “As I was reading that I saw more and more truth [in] how this has been approached by people in power, and white people in power in particular.”
At the very least, Ginsburg stands out amongst detractors for admitting her words were dismissive. But when at least 2,195 people have been killed by police since the Ferguson uprising, most of whom were black, with little accountability, Ginsburg shows others it simply might be better for them to hold their tongue than to find every way to dismiss his efforts.