NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he will not discipline players who kneel during the national anthem as a means of protesting police brutality and systemic racism.
Goodell joined Fox Sports’ Emmanuel Acho for the latter’s Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man video series. The host asked him if he will support those who peacefully protest by kneeling during the anthem (around 4:30), and Goodell said, “We have never disciplined a single player for anything with the national anthem … and I don’t intend to. And I will support them.”
He also said, “I don’t think that’s the right thing to do,” when talking about disciplining players for kneeling.
The latest comment came from part two of the conversation between Goodell and Acho.
They talked about Colin Kaepernick in the first part, and the commissioner said, “I wish we had listened earlier, Kap, to what you were kneeling about and what you were trying to bring attention to. 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.”
It was a similar tone to the one Goodell took when he was discussing issues of systemic racism and police brutality in June following worldwide protests that stemmed from the killing of George Floyd.
He said then that the NFL was “wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier, and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest”:
Kaepernick made the most headlines of all players who knelt during the national anthem when he did so as a member of the San Francisco 49ers. He has remained unsigned since he opted out of his contract following a 2016 season that saw him throw 16 touchdowns to four interceptions.
Goodell’s latest comments are a shift in tone for the league.
In 2017, he told reporters , “We want our players to stand. We’re going to continue to encourage them to stand. And we’re going to continue to work on these issues within the community.”
What’s more, the NFL’s owners unanimously approved a policy that mandated all personnel stand for the anthem in 2018 if they were on the sideline. The NFL eventually walked back that decision.