NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday he’d welcome, support and encourage a team to sign quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Goodell’s comments came during a discussion with ESPN’s Mike Greenberg for the network’s ‘The Return of Sports’ special. Greenberg asked Goodell what role he envisioned Kaepernick playing in the NFL moving forward, to which the commissioner said the following:
“Well, listen, if he wants to resume his career in the NFL, then obviously it’s gonna take a team to make that decision. But I welcome that, support a club making that decision and encourage them to do that.”
Goodell added that if Kaepernick chooses to continue his work advocating against racial injustice, the NFL would welcome his input on those matters, too.
“If his efforts are not on the field but continuing to work in this space, we welcome him to that table and to help us, guide us, help us make better decisions about the kinds of things that need to be done in the communities. We have invited him in before, and we want to make sure that everybody’s welcome at that table and trying to help us deal with some very complex, difficult issues that have been around for a long time.
“But I hope we’re at a point now where everybody’s committed to making long-term, sustainable change.”
Kaepernick last played in the NFL in January 2017. In 2016, moved by a slew of incidents of racial injustice in the United States, he opted to peacefully protest during the playing of the national anthem during NFL games. First sitting on the bench during the anthem, the 49ers quarterback followed the advice of ex-Green Beret Nate Boyer and decided to take a knee during the anthem in August 2016.
The intense backlash directed at the quarterback, spurred on by then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and a mistaken understanding of what Kaepernick was protesting, eventually resulted in the end of the latter’s NFL career four years after he led San Francisco to Super Bowl XLVII.
Earlier this month, Goodell released a video — at the request of a number of the game’s most prominent stars — apologizing for how the league handled its players’ protests over racial injustice.
“We the National Football League admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest,” Goodell said in the video.
“…I personally protest with you and want to be part of the much-needed change in this country. Without Black players, there would be no National Football League and the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of Black players coaches, fans and staff.
“We are listening, I am listening and I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve and go forward for a better and more united NFL family.”
Since a wave of protests have spread throughout North America and beyond in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, bringing about a moment of reflection on the impact of systemic racism, a number of players and coaches — from Houston coach Bill O’Brien to Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield — have said they will kneel for the national anthem when the NFL returns.