During a trip to China for the G20 Summit of world leaders, President Obama weighed in on Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the national anthem. While the NFL star’s protest has polarized many—with some calling his decision disrespectful to the military, and many veterans speaking out to show their support for the quarterback—President Obama said Kaepernick is “exercising his Constitutional right.”
Though he admitted he hadn’t been following the controversy closely, President Obama affirmed Kaepernick’s right to protest.
“In terms of Mr. Kaepernick, I’ve got to confess that I haven’t been thinking about football while I’ve been over here and I haven’t been following this closely, but my understanding, at least, is that he’s exercising his Constitutional right to make a statement,” he said. “I think there’s a long history of sports figures doing so. I think there are a lot of ways you can do it.”
Here’s President Obama commenting on Colin Kaepernick’s protest. https://t.co/G0MeGxv0fL
— Fat Idris (@Ketchcast) September 5, 2016
The president acknowledged it may be difficult for some to get past their feelings about Kaepernick’s actions to see his broader point—the need for racial justice–but he said the football star has raised even more awareness about “topics that need to be talked about.”
“As a general matter, when it comes to the flag, and the national anthem, and the meaning it holds for our men and women in uniform and those who fought for us, that is a tough thing for them to get past, to then hear what his deeper concerns are,” President Obama said. “But I don’t doubt his sincerity, based on what I’ve heard. I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about. And if nothing else, what he’s done is he’s generated more conversation around some topics that need to be talked about.”
Since his silent protest gained national attention, the San Francisco Police Officers Association slammed his decision, claiming the star “embarrassed himself,” while members of the Santa Clara Police Union have threatened to quit working the San Francisco 49ers games unless Kaepernick changes his stance.
Despite the outrage, support for Kaepernick continues to grow. His jersey is now the most popular jersey sold by the team, and players like 49ers star Eric Reid, Seattle Seahawks Jeremy Lane, and soccer player Megan Rapinoe have all joined in on the protest.