Obama defends 49ers quar­ter­back’s an­them protest

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Christi Par­sons

HANGZHOU, China — Pres­i­dent Barack Obama on Mon­day de­fended San Fran­cisco 49ers quar­ter­back Colin Kaeper­nick’s de­ci­sion not to stand dur­ing the na­tional an­them, say­ing Kaeper­nick was “ex­er­cis­ing his con­sti­tu­tional right to make a state­ment.”

The flag and an­them hold so much mean­ing for many men and women in uni­form and others who have de- fended the coun­try that the style of Kaeper­nick’s protest may make it dif­fi­cult for them to “hear what his deeper con­cerns are,” Obama said.

He told re­porters at a news con­fer­ence in Hangzhou that he would rather see peo­ple en­gaged in the ar­gu­ment than “just sit­ting on the side­lines.”

Obama spoke af­ter wrap­ping up an in­ter­na­tional eco­nomic sum­mit, part of a week­long trip to Asia.

Asked about the Kaeper­nick con­tro­versy, Obama ini­tially said that he hadn’t been pay­ing close at­ten­tion to it but then de­liv­ered a care­fully nu­anced re­sponse, say­ing that he doesn’t doubt the sin­cer­ity of the quar­ter­back and that Kaeper­nick “cares about some real le­git­i­mate is­sues that have to be Kaeper­nick talked about.”

If noth­ing else, Obama said, Kaeper­nick has got­ten peo­ple talk­ing about sub­jects of race, equal­ity and dis­crim­i­na­tion, top­ics that Obama, the first black pres­i­dent, son of a white mother and Kenyan fa­ther, has ex­am­ined many times.

Kaeper­nick hasn’t stood for the an­them at any of the pre­sea­son games, at first choos­ing to sit and then, last Thurs­day, kneel­ing along with team­mate Eric Reid.

Kaeper­nick has named po­lice bru­tal­ity and racial in­jus­tice among the rea­sons for his silent protest and in­di­cated that he will keep it up dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son that be­gins Sept. 12 with a game against the Los Angeles Rams.

The re­ac­tions to Kaeper­nick’s silent protest have been dra­matic. Sup­port­ive fans have clam­ored for au­to­graphs, and sales of his jersey have sky­rock­eted. Team of­fi­cials say they stand be­hind the quar­ter­back and his right not to par­tic­i­pate.

But other fans have heck­led and booed Kaeper­nick, and the Santa Clara, Calif., po­lice union has threat­ened to boy­cott their usual se­cu­rity du­ties at 49ers games.

Maybe over time, Obama said, Kaeper­nick will re­fine his thoughts and some of his crit­ics will start see­ing that he has a point.

“Some­times, it’s messy,” he said. “That’s how democ­racy works.”

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