At a league meeting on Wednesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the lingering controversy still swirling around National Anthem-protesting former quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to skip a special workout offered to him by the league last month. The NFL, said Goodell, has “moved on.”
“This was about creating an opportunity,” Goodell told reporters at the league meeting Wednesday, as reported by Reuters. “We created that opportunity. It was a unique opportunity, a credible opportunity and he chose not to take it. I understand that.”
“We’ve moved on,” the commissioner added.
Goodell’s comment about creating a “credible opportunity” for Kaepernick aligns with statements from league insiders published by ESPN in a report on what ultimately derailed what appears to be the quarterback-turned-social justice activist’s final shot at getting back into the league. In the report, NFL insiders consistently maintained that the league, particularly Goodell, was genuinely offering Kaepernick a real opportunity to play again, but “distrust” and “resentment” for the league within Kaepernick’s camp led to his fateful decision to skip the NFL-organized event less than an hour before it began.
According to ESPN Senior Writer Howard Bryant’s sources, the idea to offer a private workout for Kaepernick began with Goodell, who had strong motivation to “find a path back for Kaepernick” into the league and had received reports that “two teams were legitimately interested in Kaepernick”:
According to league sources, a statement that Kaepernick’s team sent on Oct. 10 reiterating his readiness to return to the NFL — a statement that news outlets tweeted and Kaepernick retweeted — caught the attention of commissioner Roger Goodell. The post landed on receptive ears for two reasons. The first was that important business partners such as Jay-Z and respected advisers such as legendary sociologist Harry Edwards were pressuring Goodell to find a path back for Kaepernick. The second and more important reason was that the league’s football operations department had alerted Goodell to a piece of news long considered unlikely: Two teams were legitimately interested in Kaepernick.
Though ESPN’s league sources consistently stress that the workout was a “legitimate” chance for Kaepernick to impress the representatives from some 25 of the 32 teams that reportedly attended the event, the quarterback’s camp was immediately suspicious of the offer and maintained their distrustful stance throughout the process.
When the NFL provided Kaepernick’s representatives with the details about the workout — scheduled for the upcoming Saturday at the Falcons’ training facility in Flowery Branch, Georgia — Kaepernick’s associates suspected it was nothing but “a publicity stunt.”
“To the league, there was no reason to believe the invitation was illegitimate,” Bryant explains. “If Kaepernick wanted to play, here was his chance. Despite the events of the past three years, the NFL believed it could offer Kaepernick a legitimate workout based solely on football merits. It was an attitude that reflected the power and, some Kaepernick sources say, the arrogance of a $15 billion behemoth.”
What Kaepernick’s camp interpreted as “arrogance,” league insiders told ESPN, was actually just an attempt to keep the event “football-centric.”
“It was not about the external noise,” an NFL source told the network. “This was to be a football-centric exercise, full stop. He wanted a workout. He said he was ready to go. We set that up.”
In the end, Kaepernick’s representatives focused on two issues, the waiver and the ability to bring their own camera crew, about which insiders say Kaepernick’s crew was offering completely unfounded complaints driven by their distrust of the league.
Despite having chosen to skip the NFL event, after his much less-attended workout that his own representatives organized, Kaepernick accused the league, and specifically Goodell, of “running” from him.
“I’ve been ready for three years. I’ve been denied for three years,” Kaepernick declared to the cameras after his private workout. “We all know why I came out here today and showed it today in front of everybody. We have nothing to hide, so we’re waiting for the 32 owners, 32 teams, Roger Goodell, all of them to stop running. To stop running from the truth. To stop running from the people.”
Related: WATCH: After No Teams Call Him, Kaepernick Posts Defiant Message To League