Speed Reads

Quotables

President Obama defends Colin Kaepernick's 'constitutional right to make a statement'

President Barack Obama weighed in on NFL player Colin Kaepernick's controversial refusal to stand up during the national anthem, calling the decision the quarterback's "constitutional right."

"My understanding is that he is exercising his constitutional right to make a statement, and there is a long history of sports figures doing so. There are a lot of ways you can do it," Obama said.

Kaepernick, who is the San Francisco 49ers' quarterback, has refused to stand for the national anthem in protest over the way black people are treated in the United States. His stance has been met with heavy criticism, including by the Santa Clara Police Union, which has threatened to boycott 49ers games. But "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 has said.

Obama added that he believes in "active citizenry," saying that "sometimes that's messy and controversial and it gets people angry and frustrated."

"But I would 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," Obama said. "My suspicion is that over time, he is going to refine how he's thinking about it. Maybe some of his critics will start seeing that he has a point about certain concerns about justice and equality. That is how we move forward. Sometimes it's messy, but that's the way democracy works."