Ted Cruz Says Martin Luther King, Jr. Would Oppose NFL National Anthem Protests Because He Respected The Flag

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Ted Cruz believes Martin Luther King, Jr. would oppose NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem, with the Texas Senator saying the late civil rights leader had too much respect for the flag.

Cruz made the statement in a Friday debate with Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who last month had delivered a viral defense of protesting NFL players. When O’Rourke again defended players and compared them to protesters in the civil rights movement in their debate, Cruz disagreed.

As CNN noted, Ted Cruz said that if Martin Luther King, Jr. were still alive, he would oppose these protests because of the respect he had for the flag. Cruz said NFL players should find a way to protest that doesn’t “disrespect the flag.”

The exchange came during what was a heated debate for a race that has grown increasingly close. Once seen as a lock for re-election, Cruz now finds himself in a battle with the quickly rising O’Rourke, whose campaign has gotten national attention. Recent polls have shown the two deadlocked, and national pollsters have moved the race from safely in Cruz’s favor to a toss-up.

One of the pivotal moments for O’Rourke’s campaign came in late August at a town hall event when he fielded a question about NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem in protest of police brutality against minorities. In an answer that would gain viral attention, the Democratic Senate candidate compared the players to leaders of the civil rights movement who came decades before them.

“Peaceful, nonviolent protests, including taking a knee at a football game to point out that black men, unarmed, black teenagers, unarmed, and black children, unarmed, are being killed at a frightening level right now, including by members of law enforcement, without accountability, and without justice,” O’Rourke said, via NBC News. “And this problem — as grave as it is — is not going to fix itself, and they’re frustrated, frankly, with people like me and those in positions of public trust and power, who have been unable to resolve this or bring justice for what has been done and to stop it from continuing to happen in this country.”

Friday’s debate was not the first time that Ted Cruz took aim at Beto O’Rourke’s stance on protesting NFL players. Cruz has previously mocked O’Rourke and his supporters, saying that “Hollywood liberals” support his opponent after Kevin Bacon shared video of O’Rourke’s reply on the NFL protests.