NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told ESPN on Monday that he would “support” and “encourage” a team to sign quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since the 2016 season when, as a member of the San Francisco 49ers, he began the players’ movement of kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police mistreatment of African Americans.
“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 said. “But I welcome that, support a club making that decision and encourage them to do that.”
Goodell’s interview was to be included in an ESPN special to be televised Monday night that also featured the commissioners of other pro sports leagues. ESPN published Goodell’s comments on its website beforehand.
“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,” Goodell said in the interview. “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. But I hope we’re at a point now where everybody’s committed to making long-term, sustainable change.”
Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll said last week that he had been contacted by a representative of another team regarding Kaepernick. Carroll declined to name the team but said he took it as an indication that the team is interested in signing Kaepernick.
The NFL has taken a series of steps amid nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody. The league released a video in which Goodell said the NFL was wrong not to listen earlier to its players but now will encourage their peaceful protests. That came in response to a video released by a group of prominent NFL players in reaction to Floyd’s death. The players called for the league to take action.
The league bolstered its social justice initiatives by announcing a $250 million donation over 10 years to programs to combat systemic racism. Goodell told NFL employees that the league will close its offices Friday in recognition of the Juneteenth holiday, which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.
Some players and other observers have said the league’s efforts are not sufficient unless a team signs Kaepernick. The quarterback last year settled a collusion grievance accusing the league and teams of conspiring improperly to keep him out of the sport. He worked out for a relatively small number of teams last year at an Atlanta-area high school after arrangements for a league-backed workout at the Falcons’ training facility, with a larger number of teams scheduled to attend, unraveled because of disagreements between Kaepernick’s representatives and the NFL.
President Donald Trump recently renewed his criticism of NFL players protesting during the anthem. Trump and some fans have characterized such protests as unpatriotic. Players have said the protests are not aimed at the flag or the military and are intended to bring attention to racial injustice.