Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 10.18.37 AMPresident Obama said Monday that NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick was “exercising his constitutional right” when it comes to bringing attention to racial issues by protesting the National Anthem.

Obama was speaking at a conference in China when he said he didn’t doubt Kaepernick’s sincerity to highlight social issues.

“When it comes to the flag and the national anthem and the meaning 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,” Obama said. “But I don’t doubt his sincerity. I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about. If nothing else, he’s generated more conversation about issues that have to be talked about.”

Obama said that Kaepernick’s decision to sit out the national anthem before games was “messy,” but it was “the way democracy works.”

“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 not paying attention at all,” Obama said.

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