News and Commentary

Obama Defends Kaepernick’s Protest of Cops: ‘Real, Legitimate Issues’

President Obama has officially weighed in on Colin Kaepernick’s protest of America and law enforcement. The quarterback, said Obama, is addressing “some real, legitimate issues” and is simply “exercising his constitutional right” to voice his opinion.

“[H]e’s following his constitutional right to make a statement,” Obama said at a press conference in China on Monday in response to a question about Kaepernick’s controversial actions. “I think there’s a long history of sports figures doing so.”

Rather than stopping there, the president took the opportunity to make clear that he not only believed Kaepernick’s protest was sincere, but that he believed it was warranted and helpful in generating “some conversation.”

“I don’t doubt his sincerity,” said Obama. “I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about. And if nothing else, he’s generated some conversation around some topics that need to be talked about it.”

After refusing to stand for the national anthem in preseason games, Kaepernick announced that he would no longer stand in respect for the country because America “oppresses” minorities and stands by while its cops “murder” innocent 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,” he told NFL Media. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

He expanded on his criticism of cops in an interview last week, accusing them of “target[ing]” minorities,” though he provided no hard statistics (and certainly did not cite this Harvard study which shows no racial bias in police shootings).

“People of color have been targeted by police,” he said. “So that’s a large part of it and they’re government officials. They are put in place by the government. So that’s something that this country has to change. There’s things we can do to hold them more accountable. Make those standards higher. You have people that practice law and are lawyers and go to school for eight years, but you can become a cop in six months and don’t have to have the same amount of training as a cosmetologist.”

Recently, images of a pair of practice socks he wore to a practice on Aug. 10 have surfaced. The socks had an image of a pig in a cop’s hat, which the quarterback explained away as only protesting “rogue cops.”

Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during “The Star Spangled Banner” has been met with loud boos from the stands, but it has also made him an icon among Black Lives Matter sympathizers and others. Despite being named a backup QB to Blaine Gabbert, Kaepernick has enjoyed a major spike in jersey sales and has been joined by a few other athletes, including teammate Eric Reid, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane, and U.S. women’s soccer player Megan Rapinoe.