Roger Goodell Says He Wishes NFL 'Had Listened Earlier' to Colin Kaepernick

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 23, 2020

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a news conference, Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, in Miami, the day after the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl 54. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell lamented the lack of support the league offered to now-free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick when Kaepernick began protesting during the national anthem in 2016.

Goodell sat down with Fox Sports' Emmanuel Acho for Acho's Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man video series. The former linebacker pressed Goodell for how he might apologize to Kaepernick.

"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," he said. "We had invited him in several times to have the conversation, to have the dialogue. I wish we had the benefit of that. We never did."

Emmanuel Acho @EmmanuelAcho

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. https://t.co/PcL02732ys

Goodell's comments echoed what he had said in June after Americans across the country began protesting against police brutality and systemic racism.

While not directly referencing Kaepernick, he said the NFL was "wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier, and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest."


We, the NFL, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of Black People. We, the NFL, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the NFL, believe Black Lives Matter. #InspireChange https://t.co/ENWQP8A0sv

Kaepernick initially remained seated while "The Star-Spangled Banner" played before a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers in August 2016.

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," he told NFL Network's Steve Wyche at the time. "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."

Kaepernick subsequently chose to kneel during the anthem, and a number of athletes followed his lead.

The 32-year-old became a free agent after the 2016 season and has yet to sign with another team. He filed a grievance against NFL owners in October 2017, saying they were conspiring to keep him out of the league in retaliation for his social activism. The case was settled in February 2019.

The NFL also attempted to limit the ability for players to protest ahead of the 2018 season when its owners unanimously approved a policy that mandated all personnel stand for the anthem if they were present on the sideline. The league walked back the decision a few months later.

While Goodell struck a conciliatory tone when talking about Kaepernick, some will argue the league can't fully address the matter until the former San Francisco 49ers star is back in the league.

The NFL attempted to work with him to stage a workout last fall, but the drama building up to the event overshadowed the workout itself.

Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reported Friday that Kaepernick hasn't generated any recent interest from teams.