SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — In a recent podcast interview, former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith spoke out against the treatment of fellow former 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick for kneeling in protest during the national anthem.

Smith addressed the controversy on an episode of the 10 Questions With Kyle Brandt podcast released Wednesday. Between discussions of rookie Patrick Mahomes and former head coach Jim Harbaugh, Smith expressed support for the man who basically took his job in 2012.

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“I think {Kaepernick] was ahead of his time, certainly trying to call out social injustice, especially around police reform. The country wasn’t ready. Nobody was ready for it. And he’s sitting there trying to tell everybody through a completely peaceful manner about some of the things going on in this country that had been going on for a long time, and to see the backlash that happened, it hurts,” Smith said. “It hurts looking back at it.”

Kaepernick, now 33, began kneeling during the National Anthem during the 2016 NFL season to protest police brutality following the officer-involved shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. By then Kaepernick had led the team to a Superbowl and a NFC championship game, and he had signed a six-year contract worth $126 million.

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The season after his protest began, when Kyle Shanahan took over as the 49ers’ head coach, the team cut Kaepernick. It’s been four seasons since Kaepernick took to the field ever since.

“The country wasn’t ready for it, and he suffered the repercussions with his job,” Smith said. “It was sad, but obviously he was incredibly brave and certainly proud of him, to even know him and what he’s done, because fast forward a few years later and I think we all were like, ‘He obviously was trying to tell us something.’”

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Picked by the 49ers in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft, Smith played six seasons for the 49ers before heading to the Kansas City Chiefs after Kaepernick’s ascendance to the QB1 position. This year Smith won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year for playing with the Washington Redskins after recovering from a compound fracture he received in the 2018 season.