“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,” the commissioner 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. We would’ve benefited from it, absolutely.”
“Just what was going on in the communities. I didn’t know what was going on in the communities,” Goodell continued. “And when I had the chance to sit with our players, I never had the chance to sit with Kaep but I talked with Kenny Stills a lot, Eric Reid, Malcolm Jenkins, Anquan Boldin. So many other players that you know, some of them sacrificed a great deal.”
With a better understanding of the issues experienced by the Black community, Goodell said he gets upset when his players actions are misunderstood.
“What they were trying to do is exercise their right to bring attention to something that needs to get fixed. That misrepresentation of who they were and what they were doing was the thing that really gnawed at me.”
Kaepernick began kneeling during the National Anthem back in 2016 to call attention to issues of racial inequality and police brutality. He later became a free agent but wasn’t signed to any football teams despite his impressive record as a player. Celebrities and fellow athletes rallied in support of Kaepernick, demanding the footballer player get a job and an apology from the NFL, while he filed a grievance alleging he was being blackballed by the NFL. The collusion grievance was recently settled.
In June, following the death of George Floyd and the ensuing protests, Goodell and the NFL apologized for their failure to listen to players’ concerns about racial injustice. The NFL commissioner echoed similar sentiments during the interview with Acho, adding the league should have been a more proactive support to their players during the Black Lives Matter protests.