Ted Cruz: Colin Kaepernick is a 'rich, spoiled' athlete, and Obama never should've praised him

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Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, in an interview Tuesday, ripped both San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for his ongoing protest during the national anthem and President Barack Obama for coming to the quarterback's defense.

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The former 2016 Republican presidential hopeful was ambushed by a TMZ reporter outside of Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC, on Tuesday. He was asked about the 49ers player, who stirred up national controversy with his decision to sit during the national anthem at the beginning of games as a silent protest of racial discrimination.

"You know, it's sad when you see rich, spoiled athletes that don't recognize what an incredible blessing this country is," the Texas Republican said. "You know, it's very easy when you're sitting there rolling in millions of dollars to disrespect this country."

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SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers congratulates Brandon Marshall #15 of the Chicago Bears following the game at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers congratulates Brandon Marshall #15 of the Chicago Bears following the game at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers congratulates Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears following the game at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) is tackled by Chicago Bears defensive end Lamarr Houston (99), cornerback Tim Jennings (26) and free safety Ryan Mundy (21) during the first quarter of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick throws a pass as he warms up prior to an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) passes against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick warms up before an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick throws the ball before an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick walks off the field after an NFL preseason football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, in Baltimore. Baltimore won 23-3. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick throws during an NFL football training camp on Friday, July 25, 2014, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick prepares to throw during an NFL football training camp on Thursday, July 24, 2014, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick gets help stretching during an NFL football training camp on Thursday, July 24, 2014, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo)
San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick arrives at the ESPY Awards at the Nokia Theatre on Wednesday, July 16, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick arrives at the ESPY Awards at the Nokia Theatre on Wednesday, July 16, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Colin Kaepernick and Chrissy Teigen present the award for best female athlete at the ESPY Awards at the Nokia Theatre on Wednesday, July 16, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)
GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 21: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers throws a pass during the second quarter of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 21, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 21: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick calls a play during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on September 21, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers runs drills on the field prior to the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers stands on the field prior to the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers rushes during the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers rushes during the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers rushes during the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers rushes during the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers throws an interception during the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers throws an interception during the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Blaine Gabbert #2 and Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers head to the field prior to the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers drops back to pass against the Chicago Bears at Levi's Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on during the second quarter of their game against the Chicago Bears at Levi's Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on during the first quarter of their game against the Chicago Bears at Levi's Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on during the first quarter of their game against the Chicago Bears at Levi's Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers looks to pass during the first quarter of a game against the Chicago Bears at Levi's Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 07: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers during the NFL game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on September 7, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. The 49ers defeated the Cowboys 28-17. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX- AUGUST 28: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers on the sidelines agains the Houston Texans in a pre-season NFL game on August 28, 2014 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up before playing the Houston Texans in a pre-season game at Reliant Stadium on August 28, 2014 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up before playing the Houston Texans in a pre-season game at Reliant Stadium on August 28, 2014 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up before playing the Houston Texans in a pre-season game at Reliant Stadium on August 28, 2014 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up before playing the Houston Texans in a pre-season game at Reliant Stadium on August 28, 2014 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up before playing the Houston Texans in a pre-season game at Reliant Stadium on August 28, 2014 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Houston, Texas, USA. 28th Aug, 2014. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) prior to an NFL preseason game between the Houston Texans and the San Francisco 49ers at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX on August 28th, 2014. © Trask Smith/ZUMA Wire/Alamy Live News
April 29, 2011 - Turlock, California, U.S. - (Debbie Noda/dnoda@modbee.com) - Parents Teresa and Rick with their son Colin Kaepernick wearing a 49er cap at their Turlock home after in the 2nd round of the NFL draft he was picked by the San Francisco. (Credit Image: © Debbie Noda/Modesto Bee/ZUMAPRE
April 29, 2011 - Turlock, California, U.S. - (Debbie Noda/dnoda@modbee.com) - Colin Kaepernick in the 2nd round of the NFL drafted by the San Francisco 49ers. (Credit Image: © Debbie Noda/Modesto Bee/ZUMAPRESS.com)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick speaks during a press conference at the New Orleans Marriott in New Orleans, Louisiana, Sunday, January 27, 2012. The 49ers will face the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Feb. 3. (Jane Tyska/Oakland Tribune/MCT)
Turlock, CA, USA. 2nd May, 2014. Colin Kaepernick talks with on of the teens at Jessica's House in Turlock CA during a quick visit. Jessica's House provides free support in a safe place for children, teen and their families grieving a death. © Marty Bicek/ZUMAPRESS.com/Alamy Live News
Turlock, CA, USA. 2nd May, 2014. Colin Kaepernick took a second to pose for a group photo with several kids at Jessica's House in Turlock CA. Jessica's House provides free support in a safe place for children, teen and their families grieving a death. © Marty Bicek/ZUMAPRESS.com/Alamy Live News
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"I come at it from a different perspective," he continued. "I come from a perspective of my dad was imprisoned and tortured in Cuba, and America has meant what it's meant to millions across the globe. It's meant hope. It's meant freedom."

He added that he "was disappointed" that Obama defended Kaepernick.

Cruz said Obama essentially told Kaepernick, "That's right, disrespect the flag."

"That's not the job of the president," he said. "The president should be standing up for America. The president should be encouraging every American to honor the flag that many have bled and died for and to honor the freedom that it stands for."

Kaepernick first sat in protest during the national anthem ahead of a 49ers preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. He said then that he would not "stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color."

The quarterback said he planned on continuing to sit during the national anthem in future games, which he has since done. He was also sharply critical of both Trump and Clinton, saying that both are inadequate of the presidency.

Kaepernick has a long history of advocating for social justice online, although his prior posts did not garner similar attention.

Earlier this week, Obama said he didn't "doubt" Kaepernick's sincerity.

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"When it comes to the flag and the national anthem and the meaning that holds for our men and women in uniform and those who fought for us — that is a tough thing for them to get past," he said. "But I don't doubt his sincerity. I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about. If nothing else, he's generated more conversation about issues that have to be talked about."

Kaepernick has insisted that his gesture is not anti-American, but an attempt to highlight perceived mistreatment of African-Americans by police.

Obama called Kaepernick's decision "messy," but said it's "the way democracy works."

"I'd rather have young people who are engaged in the argument and trying to think through how they can be part of our democratic process than people who are just sitting on the sidelines not paying attention at all," Obama said.

Republican nominee Donald Trump had a vastly different message for the quarterback last week.

"I have followed it and I think it's personally not a good thing, I think it's a terrible thing," the Manhattan billionaire said during during a radio interview with KIRO's Dori Monson last week. "And maybe he should find a country that works better for him, let him try. It won't happen."


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