NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says he should have “listened earlier” to free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick about the reasons behind his kneeling protests against police brutality and racial injustice. Goodell made his comments to former NFL player Emmanuel Acho during his video series, “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.”
Two months ago, Goodell admitted the league was “wrong” for not listening to players who were protesting during the national anthem, but noticeably left out Kaepernick in a video statement. Acho asked Goodell what he would say to Kaepernick in a public apology.
“Well, the first thing I’d say is I wished we had listened earlier to Kaep, to what you were kneeling about and what you were trying to bring attention to,” Goodell replied in the video released Sunday.
Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man: The National Anthem Protest- PT. 1— Emmanuel Acho (@EmmanuelAcho) August 23, 2020
NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, & I discuss Colin Kaepernick & the protests during the national anthem that polarized America. pic.twitter.com/PcL02732ys
“We had invited him in several times to have the conversation, to have the dialogue,” he added. “I wish we had the benefit of that. We never did. And we would’ve benefited from that, absolutely.”
Kaepernick, a former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, started kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 to draw attention to police brutality and racial inequality. Other players embraced his form of protest, but it also gained critics such as President Trump, who decried it a sign of disrespect to the American flag. Kaepernick hasn’t been signed by an NFL team since.
Goodell now says he understands the protests were not about the flag and defended players who participated.
“These are not people who are unpatriotic,” Goodell said. “They’re not disloyal. They’re not against our military. 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.”
Acho also asked Goodell how he was personally affected by seeing the video of the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.
“It was horrific to see it play out on screen,” Goodell replied. “There was a part of me that said, ‘I hope people realize that’s what the players were protesting.’ And that’s what’s been going on in our communities. You see it now on television but that’s been going on for a long, long time. And that’s where we should have listened sooner. And we should have been in there with them.”