Colin Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since being on the San Francisco 49ers in 2016

By Georgia Slater
June 16, 2020 02:03 PM
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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says that he's now all for bringing Colin Kaepernick back onto the field this season.

On Monday, Goodell appeared on ESPN's The Return of Sports special, where he endorsed the idea of re-signing Kaepernick, who hasn't played on a team since the San Francisco 49ers in 2016.

The #TakeAKnee movement was famously sparked by Kaepernick when he refused to stand during the national anthem before NFL games in protest of police brutality and racial injustice in the United States. Many players in the league, and across other sports, joined in on the protest by kneeling or participating with their own variations.

While the former quarterback faced major criticism at the time, Goodell, 61, said he now welcomes Kaepernick's voice in the league as a social activist.

"Well, listen, if he wants to resume his career in the NFL, then obviously it's going to take a team to make that decision," Goodell explained. "But I welcome that, support a club making that decision and encourage them to do that."

He continued, "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," Goodell added. "But I hope we're at a point now where everybody's committed to making long-term, sustainable change."

Goodell's backing of Kaepernick comes nearly a week after he formally apologized for ignoring players who kneeled during the national anthem, though he did not explicitly mention the former quarterback.

Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty

The commissioner's remarks followed protests across the nation after the death of George Floyd, a black man who died on May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

"It has been a difficult time for our country," Goodell said in the video, posted to Instagram. "In particular, black people in our country. First, my condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and all the families who have endured police brutality."

"We, the National Football League, condemn racism and systematic oppression of black people," he continued. "[We] admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest."

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"We, the National Football League, believe Black Lives Matter," Goodell said in his video statement. "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 a better and more united NFL family," he added.

During Monday's interview, Goodell also commended Kaepernick and attributed the NFL's decision to speak out, to the athlete and the other players who protested issues of racial injustice.

"What they were talking about and what they were protesting and what they were trying to bring attention to was playing out right in front of us — and tragically," Goodell said. "And so all of us saw that, and it was difficult for all of us. And so that was an important point for all of us."

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.