Kaepernick drew controversy in the past week for refusing to stand during the national anthem during several preseason games. He explained to reporters that he won’t “stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Obama, during a news conference in Hangzhou, China, on Monday, was responding to a question about the quarterback. He said Kaepernick is “exercising his constitutional right” not to stand.
Obama added that he believes Kaepernick is sincere and “cares about some real, legitimate issues,” ABC News reported.
The president said he isn’t paying close attention to the matter, but he noted that Kaepernick has generated attention about “issues that need to be talked about.”
“As a general matter, when it comes to the flag, and the National Anthem and the meaning that that holds for our men and women in uniform and those that fought for us—that is a tough thing for them to get past, to then hear what his deeper concerns are,” Obama said, according to Fox News.
“But I don’t doubt his sincerity. I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that need to be talked about and, if nothing else, what he’s done is generated more conversation about some topics that need to be talked about,” he said.
Obama also described his protest as “messy,” noting that it’s “the way democracy works.”
“I’d rather have young people who are engaged in the argument and trying to think through how they can be part of our democratic process than people who are just sitting on the sidelines not paying attention at all,” he said.
Kaepernick wasn’t cut from the 49ers roster over the weekend, and coach Chip Kelly announced he would be the No. 2 quarterback behind starter Blaine Gabbert.
“Right now, I have met with our quarterbacks, Blaine is No. 1 and he’ll start versus the Rams and Kap is No. 2,” Kelly said, according to ESPN. “We’ll only have two guys up [at quarterback] on game day.”