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Obama: QB Kaepernick exercising constitutional right to protest

President Barack Obama| AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

HANGZHOU, China (AP) — President Barack Obama says the NFL quarterback who is refusing to stand for the national anthem is the latest in a long line of professional athletes who have exercised their constitutional right to make a statement about social issues.

The president was asked at a news conference Monday about Colin Kaepernick’s protest gesture. Obama said he has no doubt that the San Francisco 49ers player is sincere and “cares about some real, legitimate issues.”

Kaepernick has been heavily criticized since starting his silent protest. He’s said it’s not an anti-American gesture but a means to bring attention to racial injustice.

Obama says he hasn’t paid close attention to the matter. But he adds approvingly that Kaepernick has generated more national conversation about “issues that need to be talked about.”

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, middle, kneels during the national anthem before the team’s NFL preseason football game against the San Diego Chargers on Sept. 1. | AP Photo/Chris Carlson
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, middle, kneels during the national anthem before the team’s NFL preseason football game against the San Diego Chargers on Sept. 1. | AP Photo/Chris Carlson