Gov. Mark Dayton said Monday that he disagrees with professional sports players who choose to sit or kneel while the national anthem is played before a game — but also believes they have a right to use the gesture as a sign of protest.

The DFL governor was asked during a news conference Monday what he thought of the wave of players in the NFL and other leagues choosing to kneel, sit or stay in the locker room in silent protest — particularly after President Donald Trump blasted such actions in a storm of Twitter posts this weekend. Some of the players have said the gesture is meant as a demonstration against racism in the United States.

“I think especially sports figures who are making millions of dollars should be out there day after day, providing assistance — as some of them are — to counteract the deficiencies that they are speaking out against,” Dayton said. “But I don’t question their constitutional right to do so.”

Dayton said he feels strongly about protecting the American flag as a symbol and believes that people should respect it and find other ways to demonstrate their concerns about broader issues. But the governor said the president has “made this into a much greater conflict than it should be.”

Asked about the Minnesota Vikings’ decision to link arms and stand as the anthem was played before the team’s game over the weekend, Dayton called the gesture “very appropriate, especially in the context of what’s going on.”