NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell offered a pseudo-apology to Colin Kaepernick on Monday for not engaging more with the former pro-football quarterback about kneeling for the anthem during the 2016-2017 season.
Goodell made the comments on an episode of former NFL player Emmanuel Acho’s online show “Uncomfortable Conversations With A Black Man.” Acho said that Goodell put out a “valuable message” in June when the commissioner claimed that the league had been wrong on its stance on kneeling for the national anthem before games.
“You can’t understate how valuable the message you put out a couple months ago was. At least as a former player, a black man in society, that message it resonated with me, it spoke to me,” Acho said. “You said you listened, you heard, you learned. You even apologized to so many, but in the midst of all that there wasn’t a specific message or apology to the catalyst for it all, Kaepernick, who you mentioned.”
“If you were to publicly express your remorse, apologize to Kaepernick, what would you say?” Acho asked.
Goodell avoiding giving any direct apology, initially expressing that he should have “listened earlier” but also asserting that the league gave Kaepernick multiple chances to talk about his reasons for protesting the national anthem, which offended many NFL players and fans at the time, with Goodell and others.
“Well, the first thing I’d say is I wish we had listened earlier, Kaep, to what you were kneeling about and what you were trying to bring attention to,” Goodell said. “We had invited him in several times to have the conversation, to have the dialogue. I wish we had had the benefit of that. We never did. And, you know, we would have benefitted from that, absolutely.”
Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man: The National Anthem Protest- PT. 1
NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, & I discuss Colin Kaepernick & the protests during the national anthem that polarized America. pic.twitter.com/PcL02732ys
— Emmanuel Acho (@EmmanuelAcho) August 23, 2020
Kaepernick kicked off a wave of controversy when he began kneeling and sitting for the national anthem before NFL games. At the time, he told NFL Media in August 2016 that he was protesting during the anthem because “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. … To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Controversy surrounding Kaepernick’s protest built, and Goodell eventually sent a letter to team owners and executives in October 2017 stating, “We believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem. It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us. We also care deeply about our players and respect their opinions and concerns about critical social issues.”
Goodell retracted that letter and said he was wrong about protesting the anthem in a video published on the NFL’s official Twitter account on June 5 of this year.
“We, the National Football League condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people,” Goodell said. “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. We, the National Football League believe black lives matter.”
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