Justice Ginsburg backtracks on criticism of NFL's Kaepernick

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[October 15, 2016]  By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday called her criticism of National Football League player Colin Kaepernick "inappropriately dismissive and harsh" and said she should not have commented on his protest against racism and police brutality in the United States.

Ginsburg, a liberal justice, told Yahoo News on Monday that Kaepernick was "dumb and disrespectful" for refusing to stand during the national anthem before games.

"Barely aware of the incident or its purpose, my comments were inappropriately dismissive and harsh. I should have declined to respond," Ginsburg said in her statement on Friday.

In the Yahoo News interview, Ginsburg equated Kaepernick's actions to burning the American flag. "I think it's a terrible thing to do, but I wouldn't lock a person up for doing it," she said.

Kaepernick on Wednesday told reporters that Ginsburg's comments were "disappointing," according to media reports.

The statement marked the second time in three months that Ginsburg, the eldest member of the Supreme Court at age 83, backtracked on comments she had made to the media. On July 14, she issued a statement of regret calling remarks she had made criticizing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump "ill-advised."

In media interviews, she had called Trump "a faker" and joked about moving to New Zealand if he were to win the Nov. 8 election.

Supreme Court justices generally shy away from publicly discussing politics or other divisive issues.

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Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg arrives to watch U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 20, 2015. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo - RTSHXMG

Kaepernick is a quarterback who plays for the San Francisco 49ers. He initially refused to stand for the national anthem before a preseason game in August. Since then, he has kneeled during the playing of the anthem. Some other NFL players and athletes in other sports have followed Kaepernick's example with similar gestures.

Kaepernick's actions contributed to a national debate about race relations, policing and the mixing of politics and sports. President Barack Obama, the first black U.S. president, last month defended Kaepernick's right to protest.

Kaepernick this week was named as his team's starting quarterback and is set to play against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

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