U.S. Representative Steve King (R., Iowa) criticized 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest, claiming his activism is “sympathetic to ISIS.”
The congressman made the comments in an interview on Tuesday with Newsmax’s Steve Malzberg. After Malzberg falsely claimed Kaepernick didn’t have a Constitutional right to stage his protest, he asked King why he believes “the NFL is capitulating to this when there’s no Constitutional right of freedom of expression when you’re in uniform and working as a football player.”
King responded by saying if someone working for him publicly promoted same–sex marriage or abortion, he would fire them. He also claimed Kaepernick was taking advantage of his platform as an NFL player.
“I think Colin Kaepernick is representing the San Francisco 49ers when he puts on that uniform,” he said. “When he steps out on the stage, the world stage, he’s taking advantage of that and he’s undermining patriotism.”
Before San Francisco’s game against the Rams on Monday night, Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem, continuing a protest that started this preseason. Kaepernick has said his demonstration, which several other NFL players have joined, is to protest racial inequality and police violence against minorities.
King also claimed that Kaepernick’s girlfriend, who practices Islam, had changed his political views. Kaepernick is not Muslim, and he has blamed fears over his protest as well as Islamophobia for rumors about him converting.
“I understand that he has an Islamic girlfriend that is his fiancee and that this has changed him and has taken on some different political views along the way,” King said. “This is activism that’s sympathetic to ISIS.”
Kaepernick’s girlfriend is MTV personality Nessa Diab.
King also said that if he were 49ers coach, Kaepernick wouldn’t play unless he stopped protesting and asked for forgiveness.
“For me, if I’m the coach, I would say, ‘You’re done. Until you take a knee and beg forgiveness from the American people, you’re not going to set foot out on this field again,'” King said.
Watch the full clip below:
King has a history of provocative comments. Earlier this summer, in a television interview, he questioned whether nonwhite people had contributed to civilization.