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Obama: Kaepernick Exercised "Constitutional Rights" During National Anthem Protest

Speaking at the G20 in China, Obama said San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick had "a point around certain concerns around justice and equality."

Last updated on September 5, 2016, at 9:06 a.m. ET

Posted on September 5, 2016, at 8:35 a.m. ET

Harry How / Getty Images

President Obama on Monday addressed the controversy surrounding San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, saying the athlete was "exercising his constitutional right to make a statement" when he refused to stand for the National Anthem.

Kaepernick has said he refused to support a country that he believes oppresses black people and other minorities.

“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 said during an interview with NFL Media.

The move led to Donald Trump suggesting Kaepernick should leave America, and caused a police union to threaten to boycott NFL games involving Kaepernick.

Obama, during a speech at the G20 Summit in China, added Monday that had "generated more conversation about some topics that need to be talked about." And added that Kaerpernick had "a point around certain concerns around justice and equality."

Obama's comment in full:

"In terms of Mr Kaepernick, I have to confess I haven’t been thinking of football while I have been over here and I haven’t been following this closely.

But my understanding is that he is exercising his constitutional right to make a statement. I think there is a long history of sports figures doing so and 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 but the meaning that holds for the men and women who have fought for us, that is a tough thing for them to get past and to then hear what his deeper concerns are.

I don’t doubt his sincerity based on what I have heard. I think he cares about some real legitimate issues that need to be talked about and if nothing else, he has generated more conversation around some topics that need to be talked about. I haven’t been paying close attention to it but you’ve heard me talk about it in the past about the need for us to have an active citizenry. Sometimes that is 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 will refine how he is thinking about it and maybe some of his critics we start seeing that he has a point around certain concerns around justice and equality and that is how we move forward. Sometimes it is messy but it’s the way democracy works.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.