SANTA CLARA (CBS / AP) — San Francisco 49ers coach Chip Kelly said Thursday that Colin Kaepernick’s protest during the national anthem is bringing attention to an issue that needs addressing.

“You look at what’s gone on in Tulsa and Charlotte the last two nights, it’s an issue that’s at the forefront of our country,” Kelly said. “It needs to be addressed, it needs to be taken care of. Because what’s going on is not right. So, I think, again, (Kaepernick) is shedding light on the situation that is heinous and shouldn’t happen in this country. We all have inalienable rights as a citizen of this country. They’re being violated and that’s what I think Colin is standing up for.”

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The 49ers’ backup quarterback became a polarizing figure when his protest became public following a preseason game against the Packers on Aug. 26, when he sat on the bench during the national anthem in protest of racial oppression and police brutality.

Kaepernick has since begun kneeling during the anthem instead of sitting and has been joined by several other NFL players and scores of high school and college players who have picked up the cause. Kaepernick has also pledged to donate $1 million to organizations supporting his cause of racial equality.

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Despite Kaepernick’s position at the center of the broadening protest, Kelly said the quarterback hasn’t had problems handling his responsibilities as the backup to starter Blaine Gabbert.

“He’s at every meeting. He’s done everything,” Kelly said. “He understands what his job is and he’s balanced it really well. I think he’s managed it really well. He’s focused, he’s dialed in when we’re at practice, he’s dialed in when we’re in meetings.”

Kelly disputed the contention by a reporter at the press conference that Kaepernick was a distraction in the locker room for speaking about issues other than football. The reporter, longtime Bay Area columnist Lowell Cohn, interrupted Kelly during a somewhat testy exchange, later declaring, “We have a fundamental disagreement, then.”

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