NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick has said that he is "not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color"

By Kathy Ehrich Dowd
Updated September 05, 2016 11:05 AM
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images; Harry How/Getty Images

President Barack Obama addressed the Colin Kaepernick national anthem controversy on Monday, cautiously praising the San Francisco 49ers quarterback who has been kneeling as the national anthem is played before exhibition games.

Speaking to reporters while in China, Obama admitted he has not followed the issue closely, but explained that “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,” he said. “If nothing else, what he’s done is he has generated some more conversation around some issues that need to be talked about.”

“My understanding, at least, is he is exercising his constitutional right to make a statement. I think there is a long history of sports figures doing so,” Obama also said.

Kaepernick, 28, first made headlines late last month when he knelt rather than stood when “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played before a pre-season game against the Green Bay Packers.

RELATED VIDEO: World Cup Soccer Star Megan Rapinoe Joins Colin Kaepernick in Anthem Protest

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick, who is biracial and was adopted by white parents, said afterwards.

“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Less than a week after his initial protest, Kaepernick announced that he would donate $1 million throughout the year to community groups affected by racial inequality and police brutality.

He also said he does not plan to stand for the national anthem anytime soon, and proved that true when he knelt once again during a preseason game against the San Diego Chargers Thursday at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.

Teammate Eric Reid joined him on one knee, and elsewhere Seattle Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane refused to stand during his team’s exhibition game against the Oakland Raiders. Outspoken soccer star Megan Rapinoe also knelt during a National Women’s Soccer League game on Sunday.

Kaepernick was met with loud booing when he knelt Thursday, in what was billed as Chargers’ Salute to the Military night.

On Monday, Obama acknowledged those who might not agree with Kaepernick’s form of protest.

“As a general matter, when it comes to the flag and our national anthem and the meaning that 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,” he said.

However, the commander-in-chief went on to commend Kaepernick for sparking a national conversation.

“You’ve heard me talk about in the past the need for us to have an active citizenry. Sometimes that’s messy and controversial and it gets people angry and frustrated,” he said. “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, then people who are just sitting on the sidelines and not paying attention at all.”