Emmanuel Acho, an ex-NFL linebacker and current analyst for Fox Sports 1, sat down with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during an interview for Acho’s “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” show, which aired on social media Sunday night.
Goodell, who claimed that he is “very comfortable” talking about race, said that when Colin Kaepernick and other players were peacefully protesting during the national anthem, he wish he knew back then “what was going on in the communities.”
“When I had the chance to sit with our players, I never had the chance to sit with Kaep[ernick], 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,” Goodell said.
Acho told Goodell that the message he put out a couple of months ago was “valuable.”
“At least as a former player, as a black man in society, that message, it resonated with me, it spoke to me,” Acho said to the NFL Commissioner. “You said you listened, you heard, you learned. You even apologized to so many.”
But Acho mentioned that there wasn’t a specific message or apology to Kaepernick. So, he asked Goodell if he could publicly express his remorse and apologize to Kaepernick, what is it that he would say?
“Well the first thing I’d say is I wish we had listened earlier,” Goodell responded. “Kaep, 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. You know, we would have benefited from that. Absolutely.”
And for people who think the peaceful protests were about the flag, Goodell said it wasn’t.
“It is not about the flag. The message here that what our players are doing is being mischaracterized. These are not people who are unpatriotic. They’re not disloyal. They’re not against our military. In fact, many of those guys were in the military, and they’re a military family,” Goodell said. “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.”
Goodell said that “it was horrific” to see George Floyd’s death, and added that “‘I hope people realize that’s what the players were protesting.”
“That’s what’s been going on in our communities,” Goodell added. “You see it now on television, but that’s been going on for a long, long time. And that’s where we should have listened sooner. And we should have been in there with them. Understanding it and figuring out what we can do as the NFL. We can’t solve all problems, Emmanuel. We can’t. But we’re big in our communities, we have a platform, we have an opportunity. And we’re using that effectively now. I wish we could have been doing it earlier.”