Hangzhou, China (EFE).- President Barack Obama on Monday defended a U.S. football player who sparked controversy when he refused to stand for the national anthem, saying that the athlete was “exercising his constitutional right” to protest.

Obama referred to the controversy that arose in late August when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” before a game, although doing so is traditional, because he disagrees with how minorities are treated in the United States.

“My understanding … is that he’s exercising his constitutional right to make a statement. I think there’s a long history of sports figures doing so,” said Obama during a press conference at the end of the G20 summit in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou.

Related Story: Colin Kaepernick a no-show at SF church service

Kaepernick, who is biracial and whose adoptive parents are white, has said that “There’s a lot of things that need to change. … Police brutality. There’s people being murdered unjustly and (nobody) being held accountable. … That’s not right by anyone’s standards,” and adding that “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

“As a general matter,” said Obama, “when it comes to the flag, and the national anthem, and the meaning it 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.”

“But I don’t doubt his sincerity, based on what I’ve heard. I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about. And if nothing else, what he’s done is he’s generated more conversation around some topics that need to be talked about,” the president added.

Kaepernick wears socks depicting cops as pigs. Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Kaepernick wears socks depicting cops as pigs. Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

“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,” he said.

Obama predicted that, with time, Kaepernick would refine his thinking on the issues he has sought to protest and it may be that some of his critics might begin to see that he is right about some of his concerns about justice and equality, and that would serve to move the country forward.

Among those who have criticized the 28-year-old player for his gesture is Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who said last week that Kaepernick’s act seemed to him to be “a terrible thing, and … maybe he should find a country that works better for him.”

During his presidency, which will conclude in January, Obama has often called for people to reflect on racial problems and has acknowledged that racism remains present in the country, although he has also appeared to be restrained in his remarks at times to avoid increasing racial polarization. EFE

© 2016 EFE News Services (U.S.) Inc.

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