WATCH: Mayor Pete Defends Colin Kaepernick and NFL Protesters: ‘I Fought to Protect these Rights’

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In an interview with TMZ, the 2020 presidential hopeful defended the right of players to peacefully protest on the field before games.

“The way I feel about it is the flag that was on my shoulder when I served represented, among other things, our right to free speech,” Mayor Pete, a Navy veteran, told TMZ.

He added: “You don’t have to like it, but one of the reasons we serve was to defend that right, the right of peaceful protest and the idea that we can protest what is wrong with our country.”

Buttigieg also targeted President Trump, who has been publicly critical of NFL players who kneel during the anthem and called for their firing last year, over Trump’s deferment from the draft during the Vietnam War, a subject the Navy veteran has been vocal about in recent days.

“If the president had served, maybe he’d feel a little more strongly about some of those freedoms,” Buttigieg charged. “And, I get that there’s a lot of strong opinions about this, but that’s part of why we served.”

The South Bend mayor criticized Trump’s avoidance of the draft in interviews, accusing the president of using his wealth and privilege to secure a deferment for a disability, bone spurs, that Buttigieg argues was faked to allow Trump not to serve.

“[T]his is somebody who, I think it’s fairly obvious to most of us, took advantage of the fact that he was the child of a multimillionaire in order to pretend to be disabled so that somebody could go to war in his place,” Buttigieg told Robert Costa in an interview Friday.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg is going to bat for Colin Kaepernick … telling TMZ Sports he supports the QB’s right to take a knee during the national anthem — and he’s ripping Trump for going after the protesters

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