As you’ve no doubt heard by now, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose not to stand for the national anthem before a preseason against the Green Bay Packers last week.
The decision sparked a heated public debate, with some arguing that Kaepernick had disrespected his country and its military veterans.
Others maintained that the former NFL standout (who lost his starting position to Blaine Gabbert last season) was exercising a constitutional right and calling attention to the critical matter of police brutality directed at people of color.
“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 told the press after the game.
“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”
The 28-year-old added:
“There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.
“When there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent and this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”
On Thursday, Kaepernick doubled-down on his protest by kneeling during the National Anthem prior to his team’s matchup against the San Diego Chargers, thus sending the clear message that he has no intention of backing down from stance.
Needless to say, it’s a complex issue, and numerous public figures have expressed their views on Kaepernick’s actions.
Of course, from the start of the controversy most sought-after opinion has been that of President Barack Obama, who has remained silent on the issue of Kaepernick’s protest until today.
Obama is currently in China for a Group of 20 summit, and during a press conference this morning, he was asked about his views on Kaepernick.
The President had this to say:
“I think he cares about some real legitimate issues that have to be talked about,” Obama said, in what a statement of somewhat less-than-full-throated support for Kaepernick’s refusal to stand.
“He’s exercising his constitutional right to make a statement. I think there’s a long history of sports figures doing so.”
Obama then expressed his empathy for veterans who feel that Kaepernick’s actions were indicative of a lack of respect for the sacrifices made by those who have fought in the US armed forces:
“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.”
Despite the fact that Obama didn’t take a hard-line stance on either side of the debate, his comments have resulted in harsh rebukes from his most strident critics.
Of course, that should surprise absolutely no one who’s familiar with the climate of American politics in 2016.