For Pete's Sake

Obama: Kaepernick is exercising constitutional right to make a statement

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The Associated Press

President Barack Obama weighed in on San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the playing of the national anthem.

Obama made his comments while in Hangzhou, China, for the G20 summit, and said he hasn’t been thinking of football while on the trip.

“I haven’t been following this closely,” Obama said. “But my understanding at least is that he is exercising his constitutional right to make a statement. I think there is a long history of sports figures doing so. ...

“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 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. 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.”

Kaepernick has said that he won’t stand during the national anthem because he is upset about the treatment of racial minorities in the United States.

According to the Associated Press, Obama called Kaepernick’s protest “messy,” but said “that’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,” Obama said, according to the AP.

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff