While answering questions from the press during his trip to China, President Obama addressed the ongoing controversy over San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the Star Spangled Banner.
President Obama stated that, although he had not been paying close attention to it, he believed that Kaepernick was sincere and bringing attention to legitimate concerns over issues of justice.
The President described Kaepernick’s protest as “his constitutional right” and that, over time, his critics will start seeing that “he has a point.”
Here is a transcript of President Obama’s response:
“In terms of Mr. Kapenick: I’ve got to confess that I haven’t been thinking about football while I’ve been over here.
I haven’t been following this closely. My understanding is that he’s exercising his constitutional right to make a statement. I think there is a long history of sports figures doing so. 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 of fought for us–that is a tough thing for them to get passed to then hear what his concerns are. But I don’t doubt his sincerity from what I’ve heard.
I think he cares about some real legitimate issues that need to be talked about. And if nothing else, what he’s done is he’s generated more conversations around some topics that need to be talked about.
So, again, I haven’t been paying close attention to it, but 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.
But, 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 and not paying attention at all.
My suspicion is that, over time, he’s going to refine how he is thinking about it. Maybe some of his critics will start seeing that he has a point around certain concerns about justice and equality. And that’s how we move forward. Sometimes it’s messy, but it’s the way democracy works.”
Sunday night, U.S. Women’s National Team star Megan Rapinoe joined in protest of the Star Spangled Banner by taking a knee. Rapinoe stated:
“It was a little nod to Kaepernick and everything that he’s standing for right now. I think it’s actually pretty disgusting the way he was treated and the way that a lot of the media has covered it and made it about something that it absolutely isn’t. …
Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties.
It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it.
It’s important to have white people stand in support of people of color on this. We don’t need to be the leading voice, of course, but standing in support of them is something that’s really powerful.”
Colin Kaepernick was also joined in protest by his teammate in San Francisco, Eric Reid, and Seatle Seahawks cornerback, Jeremy Lane.
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