Sports Desk, Jun 16 (efe-epa).- The commissioner of the National Football League reiterated his support for a return to action of quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is known worldwide for protesting against police brutality and racial injustice by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem but has not competed professionally in his sport since the 2016 season.
Roger Goodell made his remarks Monday on ESPN’s “The Return of Sports” program.
Kaepernick, an African-American quarterback who as a member of the San Francisco 49ers sparked a wave of kneeling protests by NFL players that season that polarized public opinion and incurred the wrath of many fans, has not been signed since becoming a free agent in early 2017.
Later that same year, Kaepernick filed a grievance against the NFL that accused that organization and owners of the league’s 32 teams of colluding to blacklist him in retaliation for his form of protest.
The league in early 2019 settled a pair of lawsuits filed by Kaepernick and one of his former teammates, Eric Reid, for an undisclosed sum.
In his remarks on Monday, Goodell said it is not up to him whether the 32-year-old Kaepernick returns to NFL action but that he thinks it would be a good thing for the league.
“If he wants to resume his career in the NFL, then obviously it’s going to take a team to make that decision,” the commissioner said. “I welcome that, support a club making that decision and encourage them to do that.”
Earlier this month, Goodell released a video in which he apologized on behalf of the league for not listening carefully enough to players’ concerns about racial inequality and encouraged all of them to speak out and peacefully protest.
The video’s caption also read, “we, the NFL, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of Black People.”
Even so, Goodell came under fire for not mentioning Kaepernick by name in the video.
The president of the United States, Donald Trump, in 2017 harshly criticized players who were kneeling during the national anthem, which is traditionally played prior to NFL games, and said they should be cut by their teams on the spot.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when someone disrespects our flag to say, ‘get that son of a b____ off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired,'” Trump told a cheering crowd of supporters at a rally in Alabama.
Last week, Trump slammed Goodell for his apology video.
“Could it be even remotely possible that in Roger Goodell’s rather interesting statement of peace and reconciliation, he was intimating that it would now be O.K. for the players to KNEEL, or not to stand, for the National Anthem, thereby disrespecting our Country & our Flag?” the president tweeted.
Kaepernick was regarded as one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL after leading the 49ers to the 2013 Super Bowl, which they narrowly lost to the Baltimore Ravens.
But his star faded somewhat in the ensuing years, and he was informed by the 49ers after the 2016 season that they planned to release him.
In 2018, after not playing for nearly two seasons, Kaepernick was named as one of the faces of US sporting goods giant Nike’s 30th anniversary “Just Do It” ad campaign.
That deal is reportedly worth millions of dollars annually and includes royalties on sales of his own branded line of sportswear. EFE-EPA