-NFL commissioner Roger Goodell again expressed remorse for how he and the league reacted when Colin Kaepernick started kneeling in protest during the national anthem four years ago.
During an interview with ex-NFL linebacker Emmanuel Acho of Fox Sports 1 posted Sunday, Goodell said he wished “we had listened earlier” to the message the former 49ers quarterback was trying to deliver.
Goodell repeated an apology he made in June for equating players kneeling to them disrespecting the flag, rather than an indictment on racial inequality and police brutality as Kaepernick intended.
“I wish we had listened earlier, Kaep, to what you were kneeling about and what you were trying to bring attention to,” Goodell said on Acho’s show ‘Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man’ when asked what he’d say to Kaepernick.
The commissioner said he and the league should have had a conversation with Kaepernick long ago.
“We had invited him in several times to have the conversation, to have the dialogue,” Goodell said. “I wish we had the benefit of that. We never did. And we would’ve benefited from that, absolutely.”
Goodell said Kaepernick and those who followed him in protest, including then 49ers teammate Eric Reid, shouldn’t have been vilified as un-American.
“These are not people who are unpatriotic. They’re not disloyal. They’re not against our military,” said Goodell. “In fact, many of those guys were in the military, and they’re a military family. And what they were trying to do is exercise their right to bring attention to something that needs to get fixed. And that misrepresentation of who they were and what they were doing was the thing that really gnawed at me.”
One day after many players released a video criticizing the NFL for not condemning racism after the May 25 death of George Floyd, the league released its own video. In it, Goodell apologized for the league not doing a good job of listening to concerns by players on racial inequality. Goodell was criticized for just making a cursory mention of Kaepernick.
“We had spent time prior to that understanding all the frustration, fear and sadness. When the video came out on Thursday it was very powerful. It was appropriate for me to respond,” Goodell said in June. “We should have listened to our players earlier including Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid, Kenny Stills, Malcolm Jenkins and so many people really brought these issues to light.”
Despite Goodell encouraging the league’s 32 teams to give Kaepernick a chance to resume his career, no team has offered the 32-year-old a tryout. But Kaepernick hasn’t had a real opportunity to play since 2016 because of the widespread backlash from his protests and his subsequent civil rights activism.
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