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Roger Goodell’s shift on the NFL’s approach to racial issues continued on Monday, as the NFL commissioner told ESPN he encourages teams to sign Colin Kaepernick.
Speaking with ESPN’s Mike Greenberg during the network’s “The Return of Sports” special, Goodell said he would welcome such a decision from a team and wants to engage with Kaepernick.
"Well, listen, if he wants to resume his career in the NFL, then obviously it's gonna take a team to make that decision," Goodell said. "But I welcome that, support a club making that decision, and encourage them to do that.
"If his efforts are not on the field but continuing to work in this space, we welcome him to that table and to help us, guide us, help us make better decisions about the kinds of things that need to be done in the communities. We have invited him in before, and we want to make sure that everybody's welcome at that table, and trying to help us deal with some very complex, difficult issues, that have been around for a long time.
"But I hope we're at a point now where everybody's committed to making long-term, sustainable change."
It remains to be seen if that statement causes any team to re-think it assessment of Kaepernick, but the commissioner saying the player’s name is an intriguing development compared to just 10 days ago.
Roger Goodell has shifted approach after outcry from NFL players
Goodell had previously admitted the league was wrong in its handling of player protests in the past, but notably didn’t mention Kaepernick’s name anywhere in the statement.
That statement was still seen as a stark reversal from the NFL’s approach to protests over the last few years, as Goodell said the league encourages all to “speak out and peacefully protest.” It also drew questioning from President Donald Trump, who has long decried racial injustice protests by players as disrespectful to the flag and country.
Even with the threat of political blowback from Trump and his supporters, the NFL is still shifting toward action against racial injustice following the killing of George Floyd in police custody. The league has announced it will commit $250 million to social justice initiatives over the next 10 years.
The change seems to be thanks to NFL players railing against racial injustice and the league’s handling of past player protests like Kaepernick. That outcry reached its peak with a pointed video in which several stars basically asked if it would take their murder by police for the league to admit fault and say “Black Lives Matter.”
With players making clear they plan to protest when the season starts, we might only be looking at the early stages of a movement in the league.
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