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Roger Goodell On Colin Kaepernick's Possible Return to NFL: 'I Welcome That'


Then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (center) takes a knee during the playing of the national anthem before a game between the Atlanta Falcons and the 49ers on Dec. 18, 2016, in Atlanta.
John Bazemore, AP

Then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (center) takes a knee during the playing of the national anthem before a game between the Atlanta Falcons and the 49ers on Dec. 18, 2016, in Atlanta.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is on board with any of the NFL's 32 franchises signing former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

"If he wants to resume his career in the NFL, then it's obviously going to take a team to make that decision," Goodell said during an interview with ESPN.

"But I welcome that, support the club making that decision and encourage them to do that."

Goodell added during the Monday interview that if Kaepernick is not back on the field when the 2020 season gets underway, the league would also welcome his insights to "help us and guide us and help us to make better decisions" on complex issues.

Troy Vincent, a former NFL player who now serves as the league's Executive Vice President of Football Operations, echoed Goodell's sentiments that he wants Kaepernick back in the league, but ultimately the decision falls to the teams.

"We don't hire," Vincent said, alluding to the league office's role in team personnel decisions. "That'll be a decision that is made by a head coach, a general manager and an owner. That's a club decision.

"But this young man is talented enough to play in the National Football League," Vincent said during in podcast with ESPN's Adam Schefter. He added that Kaepernick "just hasn't had the opportunity to display his talents once again."

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Goodell's apology

Both the comments come nearly two weeks after Goodell admitted the league was "wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier" on racial injustice issues. Goodell did not mention Kaepernick during in his roughly 80-second video statement released June 5.

The league released that video a day after several current NFL players used their social media platforms to criticize the league for not taking a stronger stance on matters of racial inequities.

Kaepernick, a once-electrifying player who led his team to a Super Bowl appearance, has gone unsigned for the past three seasons.

He became a lightening rod after he started keeling during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" in 2016 to call attention to racial injustices, including brutality by police against communities of color.

The subject of kneeling during the anthem has regained traction of late, following the nationwide protests sparked by recent high profile killings of African Americans by police including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, Ahmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks.

In the case of McAtee, Kentucky officials said last week the fatal shot came from the Kentucky National Guard which had been called to assist police in Louisville to respond to a crowd gathered after the city's curfew. One of the three white men accused in Arbery's murder in February is a retired law enforcement officer.

During his eulogy of Floyd last week in Houston, the Rev. Al Sharpton also hit Goodell for not doing enough for Kaepernick.

"Oh it's nice to see some people change their mind," Sharpton said of Goodell, before telling mourners that the commissioner offered up an "empty apology."

"Don't come with some empty apology, take a man's livelihood, strip a man down of his talents and four years later, when the whole world is marching, all of a sudden, you go and do a FaceTime, talking about you [are] sorry," Sharpton said.

President Trump Factor

President Trump has also hit the NFL recently when he questioned whether Goodell 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?"

Trump over the weekend also suggested he would not watch the NFL during the upcoming season if players were allowed to take a knee during the anthem.

Goodell previously agreed with Trump's anthem stance. In a 2017 memo sent to all NFL franchises, Goodell said "we believe everyone should stand for the National Anthem. It is an important part of our game."

As The Associated Press points out, Goodell did set up a tryout for Kaepernick at the Atlanta Falcons facility in November 2019.

The move was at the time met with widespread criticism, for reasons that included the tryout was setup for a Saturday, a difficult travel day for most teams during the season who largely play on games on Sundays.

Ultimately the workout didn't materialize as planned and Kaepernick worked out for reportedly eight NFL scouts at a high school south of Atlanta.

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