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Roger Goodell wishes NFL ‘listened earlier’ to Colin Kaepernick after national anthem protest

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell admitted this offseason that the league got it wrong with how it responded to players who peacefully protested during the national anthem, which were sparked by Colin Kaepernick.

With the 2020 season fast approaching and more athletes calling for the NFL to apologize specifically to Kaepernick, Goodell is now admitting the league didn’t do right by him.

Roger Goodell says he regrets not listening to Colin Kaepernick

Goodell appeared on Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man, hosted by former NFL linebacker Emmanuel Acho. During an extensive conversation about race and social injustice, the NFL commissioner addressed how the league handled Kaepernick’s protest during the national anthem.

Specifically, when asked by Acho how he would go about apologizing to Kaepernick, Goodell took some ownership for failing to listen to Kaepernick’s message.

“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, via Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.

The NFL’s commissioner said the league invited him to meet with Goodell and other officials several times, but it was never arranged. He believes had the conversation been held, the league would have benefitted greatly from it.

Following the senseless murder of George Floyd by a now-former Minneapolis police officer, countless NFL players joined millions across the United States in protesting. The calls for police form and addressing systemic injustice led to Goodell releasing a statement in support of the message.

Players encouraged Goodell and NFL owners to do more this offseason. After hearing the players’ voices, Goodell released a video expressing his support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

NFL plans to support protesting during national anthem, stand up to President Donald Trump

When Kaepernick first kneeled during the national anthem to raise awareness for police brutality and systemic issues in the United States, the NFL drew criticism for caving to President Donald Trump and not standing by its players.

Years later, the NFL is now changing its tone towards players who protest when the national anthem is played. It’s especially notable given many high-profile players, including  Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield and Arizona Cardinals star Kyler Murray, plan to kneel this season.

Trump continues to bash the NFL for allowing players to kneel and has vowed to boycott the sport this season. This time around, the NFL plans to stand up to Trump with Goodell seemingly ready to be the public face supporting players’ rights to protest.

Kaepernick’s football career is likely over, but the NFL’s new stance and its $250 million pledge to combat systemic racism shows he still made an impact on Goodell and the league.