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Texas Sen. Ted Cruz took on athletes Colin Kaepernick and Jalen Rose

He criticized those who have used the national anthem to protest police brutality

CNN  — 

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on Monday condemned athletes protesting police violence against African Americans.

“To all the athletes who have made millions in America’s freedom: stop insulting our flag, our nation, our heroes,” the former Republican presidential contender tweeted.

The protests began earlier this month when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Protests during the national anthem have spread to other NFL teams, including the Miami Dolphins, the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs. Women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe also knelt in solidarity with Kaepernick.

In a second tweet, Cruz fired back at basketball commentator Jalen Rose, who saluted NFL players and teams who peacefully protested.

“Here’s a peaceful protest: never buy another shoe, shirt, or jersey of rich spoiled athletes who dishonor our flag,” Cruz wrote.

The Texas senator also weighed in on the issue when spotted by TMZ at Reagan National Airport last week.

“It’s sad when you see rich spoiled athletes that don’t recognize what an incredible blessing this country is,” Cruz said.

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The conservative firebrand slammed President Barack Obama’s stance on the issue. Obama said in a news conference last week that Kaepernick was “exercising his constitutional right.”

“I was disappointed to see President Obama stand with Kaepernick and say, ‘that’s right, disrespect the flag.’ That’s not the job of the President. The President should be standing up for America and the president should be encouraging every American to honor the flag that so many have bled and died for.”

Ted Cruz also retweeted a tweet from supermodel Kate Upton calling the protests “unacceptable.”