HANGZHOU, China (CBSNewYork/AP)President Barack Obama says the NFL quarterback who is refusing to stand for the national anthem is the latest in a long line of professional athletes who have exercised their constitutional right to make a statement about social issues.

The president was asked at a news conference in China on Monday about Colin Kaepernick’s protest gesture.

“As a general matter, 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,” Obama said. “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.”

Kaepernick has been heavily criticized since starting his silent protest. He’s said it’s not an anti-American gesture but a means to bring attention to racial injustice.

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