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Obama Says Colin Kaepernick Is ‘Exercising His Constitutional Right to Make a Statement’ (Video)

President says San Francisco 49ers quarterback follows a long tradition of athletes making political statments

President Obama says San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is exercising his Constitutional rights by refusing to stand during the national anthem before football games, and is part of a “long history” of athletes taking political positions.

“In terms of Mr. Kaepernick, I gotta confess I haven’t been thinking about football while I’ve been over here,” Obama said in response to a question at a press conference in Hangzhou, China, which he is visiting for the G20 summit. “I haven’t been following this closely.”

With that caveat, though, President Obama continued: “But my understanding at least is that he is exercising his constitutional right to make a statement.”

“There is a long history of sports figures doing so,” the president said. “I think there are a lot of ways you can do it as a general matter. When it comes to the flag and national anthem and the meaning that holds for the men and women in uniform that have 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. I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about.”

Kaepernick has refused to stand to protest against police brutality and racial inequality.

His San Francisco 49ers teammate Eric Reid joined him on Thursday night in kneeling as the anthem was played. Seattle Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane sat during the anthem on Thursday as well, before a game against the Oakland Raiders. And, most recently, U.S. women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe took a knee during the anthem Sunday night, and later voiced her support for Kaepernick.

Watch the video of President Obama’s response below: