President Obama Defends Colin Kaepernick: “He Cares About Some Legitimate Issues”

President Obama spoke for the first time on Colin Kaepernick’s stance against the American flag. During a press conference in China Monday (Sep. 5), the commander in chief defended the San Francisco 49er quarterback’s right to protest.

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“I haven’t been following this closely, but my understanding, at least, is that he’s exercising his Constitutional right to make a statement,” the president 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.

“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,” Obama continued. “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.”

While Kaepernick’s protest, which is the NFL player’s public way of taking a stand against racial injustice and police brutality, has received lots of support, the move doesn’t come without some backlash.  Supposed fans have been burning his jerseys, and  the Santa Clara County Police Union has threatened to stop working 49ers home games.

READ: Veterans Stand Up For Colin Kaepernick On Social Media With #VeteransForKaepernick Hashtag

On the flips side, several other professional athletes are following the quarterback’s lead, the most recent being soccer player Megan Rapine who kneeled as the national anthem during a game Sunday (Sept. 4).

“I think it’s actually pretty disgusting the way he was treated and the way that a lot of the media has covered it and made it about something that it absolutely isn’t,” Rapine told American Soccer Now. “We need to have a more thoughtful, two-sided conversation about racial issues in this country.”

Rapine added that as a gay woman, she understands Kaepernick’s views on the flag. “I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties,” she said. “It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it. It’s important to have white people stand in support of people of color on this. We don’t need to be the leading voice, of course, but standing in support of them is something that’s really powerful.”