Sports

Roger Goodell reveals NFL regret in Colin Kaepernick saga

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he wished “we had listened earlier” to Colin Kaepernick, when asked what he would say in an apology to the former 49ers quarterback who was catapulted back into the national spotlight amid the country’s reckoning on racism.

“Well the first thing I’d say is, ‘I wish we had listened earlier, Kap, to what you were kneeling about and what you were trying to bring attention to,’ ” Goodell said, when prompted by former linebacker and commentator Emmanuel Acho during an interview, shared to social media on Sunday, titled “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man: The National Anthem Protest.”

Goodell added that the league had “invited [Kaepernick] in several times to have the conversation,” but “we never did.”

He did not offer an explanation as to why that meeting hasn’t happened.

The NFL over the past four years had mostly been silent when it came to Kaepernick, who hasn’t played since 2016 after kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality.

But that began to change following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, which prompted NFL stars in June to demand the league to “listen to your players” and “condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people.”

Colin Kaepernick (l) and Roger GoodellAP (2)

Only after facing pressure from the league’s biggest names, including Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, Goodell responded, “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, however, drew backlash for not mentioning the 32-year-old Kaepernick by name.

Goodell later said he would “support” a team to sign Kaepernick, who continues to train in hope of another opportunity.

Kaepernick sparked the movement to peacefully protest during the national anthem, and it has become the norm since sports have returned from the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is not about the flag. The message here, and what our players are doing, is being mischaracterized,” Goodell said. “These are not people who are unpatriotic, 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. What they were trying to do was exercise their right to bring attention to something that needs to get fixed. That misrepresentation in who they were and what they were doing was a thing that really gnawed at me.”

Kaepernick and the NFL reached an undisclosed settlement in February 2019 over his collusion grievance against the league and owners.

The following season, Goodell and the league attempted to arrange a workout for Kaepernick in what many saw as a publicity stunt for the league.

The workout turned into a disaster when Kaepernick and the NFL couldn’t agree on details, and only a few teams attended.

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