Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg expressed regret Friday afternoon over calling San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest during the national anthem “dumb and disrespectful” earlier this week.
“Barely aware of the incident or its purpose, my comments were inappropriately dismissive and harsh,” Ginsburg said in a written statement. “I should have declined to respond.”
Kaepernick has drawn widespread attention, both critical and supportive, for kneeling on the sideline during the national anthem, which he began during preseason games this summer in order to protest what he perceived as police brutality and systemic injustice against African Americans. Many athletes, including fellow NFL players and U.S. women’s national soccer team player Megan Rapinoe, have followed suit.
In an interview with Yahoo to promote her book published Monday, Ginsburg, the senior member of the Court’s liberal wing, called the protest “arrogant” and equated Kaepernick’s actions to flag burning.
“I think it’s a terrible thing to do, but I wouldn’t lock a person up for doing it,” Ginsburg, 83, said. “I would point out how ridiculous it seems to me to do such an act.”
Kaepernick, who has called presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump “proven liars,” was upset with Ginsburg’s initial stance.
“It is disappointing to hear a Supreme Court justice call a protest against injustices and oppression ‘stupid, dumb’ in reference to players doing that,” Kaepernick told reporters Wednesday in the San Francisco locker room.
Ginsberg’s remarks about Kaepernick drew sharp criticism on social media from many of her liberal supporters.
This is the second time in recent months that Ginsburg has apologized for public comments. She previously called criticism of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in July “ill-advised.”
Kaepernick may receive a larger forum starting this weekend. After the 49ers struggled to a 1-4 start, head coach Chip Kelly promoted Kaepernick, a backup for the entirety of the season, to the starting position. Kaepernick, who led San Francisco to the Super Bowl in 2013, will replace Blaine Gabbert.
During home games, fans had chanted, “We want Kap!” Last month, Kaeperick’s No. 7 jersey became the highest seller among NFL players, and he appeared on the cover of TIME Magazine.
Incidentally, Kaepernick’s first start this season will come against the Buffalo Bills, whose head coach Rex Ryan in April introduced Trump at a rally in Buffalo.