President Obama defended Colin Kaepernick’s right to protest on Monday, saying the San Francisco 49ers quarterback was “exercising his constitutional right to make a statement.”
Obama made his comments at a news conference in China after the Group of 20 summit.
Kaepernick has chosen to kneel before games while the national anthem is played, doing so to protest police brutality and racial injustice.
“People don’t realize what’s really going on in this country,” Kaepernick said when originally asked about his stance. “There are a lot things that are going on that are unjust. People aren’t being held accountable for. And that’s something that needs to change. That’s something that this country stands for, freedom, liberty and justice for all. And it’s not happening for all right now. … I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me this is something that has to change. When there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”
Obama said Kaepernick’s actions were generating conversation around “some topics that need to be talked about,” but doing so while involving the national anthem and flag was putting up a boulder.
“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. But I don’t doubt his sincerity, based on what I’ve heard,” he said.
The 28-year-old Keapernick had been the 49ers starter since 2012 before losing the job to Blaine Gabbert this season. He threw for 1,615 yards with 6 touchdowns and 5 interceptions last season before being sidelined due to a shoulder injury that required surgery.