Barack Obama on Colin Kaepernick Protest: ‘He Cares About Some Real, Legitimate Issues’

Bryan Brandom
(Photo: Getty Images)

Despite the immense backlash, support for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his sitting through the national anthem is also growing.

At least two other NFL players have joined his protest against discrimination toward African Americans, as has United States women's national soccer team star Megan Rapinoe.

“The very least that I can do is continue the conversation with him by kneeling for the anthem,” she said following her Seattle Reign's 2-2 draw against the Chicago Red Stars of the NWSL on Sunday night.

“I am disgusted with the way [Kaepernick] has been treated and the fans and hatred he has received in all of this,” Rapinoe later said. “It is overtly racist. ‘Stay in your place, black man.’ Just didn’t feel right to me. We need a more substantive conversation around race relations and the way people of color are treated.”

The openly gay soccer star said she sees a commonality between her and Kaepernick.

“Quite honestly, being gay, I have stood with my hand over my heart during the national anthem and felt like I haven’t had my liberties protected,” she said, “so I can absolutely sympathize with that feeling.”

Now the Niners quarterback has an even more powerful name on his side, kind of: President Barack Obama.

Obama was asked about the issue at the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China. After acknowledging that he is a little busy to be paying attention to the NFL, he relayed an understanding and fairly supportive message to Kaepernick's protest.

"He's exercising his constitutional right to make a statement. I think there's a long history of sports figures doing so," he said. "I think there are a lot of ways you can do it. 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. If nothing else, what he’s done is he’s generated more conversation around some topics that need to be talked about."

The president also noted the protest is "messy" but is also "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."

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