NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that he wishes “we had listened” earlier to what former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was protesting when he was kneeling during the national anthem during the 2016 regular season.
Goodell spoke candidly and offered a public apology of sorts for how the NFL handled the protesting, during an appearance on “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” hosted by former NFL linebacker Emmanuel Acho.
“We had invited him in several times to have the conversation, to have the dialogue,” Goodell said during the video that Acho posted on Sunday. “I wish we had the benefit of that. We never did. And we would’ve benefited from that, absolutely.”
Goodell went on to say that players kneeling during the national anthem is “not about the flag” and added that their intentions are being “mischaracterized.”
“These are not people who are unpatriotic” Goodell said (h/t ESPN for transcription).
“They’re not disloyal. They’re not against our military,” Goodell continued. “In fact, many of those guys were in the military, and they’re a military family. And what they were trying to do is exercise their right to bring attention to something that needs to get fixed. And that misrepresentation of who they were and what they were doing was the thing that really gnawed at me.”
Goodell and the NFL released a video back in June of this year apologizing on behalf of the league for not doing a better job of listening to the concerns of players about racial inequality, speaking of regret that the NFL did not do a better job in being supportive of the protests.
That’s where we should have listened sooner,” Goodell said. “And that’s where we should have been in there with them, understanding and figuring out what we can do as the NFL.”