NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wishes he had listened previously to the message Colin Kaepernick was delivering when he began kneeling during the national anthem in the 2016 season.
Goodell delivered those sentiments to Emmanuel Acho in the latter's YouTube series Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man during part one of their conversation, which debuted Sunday.
In the second part released on Monday, Acho asked if Goodell would support players' decision to kneel in the upcoming 2020 season.
The commissioner, who has previously stated he supports players’ rights to peacefully protest, reaffirmed his support and pointed out he has never handed down discipline for a player kneeling.
"Yes [I will support them]. We have never disciplined a single player for anything with the national anthem and in violation. And I don't intend to," Goodell said. "And I will support them."
Goodell was emotional early in the episode when he viewed a prior episode of the series and heard the words and cries of kids frightened they could be harmed or killed simply because of the color of their skin. And upon the episode's conclusion, Goodell voiced his intentions for the NFL to be a leader in bringing about positive changes for racial equality and social justice.
As aforementioned, Monday's part two began with Goodell watching a past episode featuring interracial children expressing that they were "scared" and "sad" seeing and hearing about Black people killed by white people and that it worried them that it happened "just because of hatred for our skin color."
"Seeing somebody live in that kind of fear, is just not right," he said. "We've got to fix that. We've got to make this world better, because it's just not right."
Goodell, who has a Black nephew, had previously shared off-camera with Acho, as the host touched on, that that scene made him realize he needed to have a frank discussion with his nephew.
"I don't look at him as a Black nephew, I look at him as my nephew. He's named after my father, Charlie Goodell. It's my youngest brother and he actually has adopted two other kids. I just look at him as my nephew," the Commissioner said. "So I didn't think about, does he have that fear when he's walking out and does he really think that he's in danger every time he walks outside of the building."
It was a conversation Goodell did not realize he needed to have. And referring to the name of Acho's show, he cited uncomfortable conversations as being a needed avenue to bring about change within the NFL. It came in a reply to Acho's quandary as to how Goodell could mend the disconnect in the NFL when ownership is predominantly white and players are predominantly black.
"By exactly what you're doing," Goodell said. "Make them have uncomfortable conversations with their players. Make them go and sit and listen. Don't listen to me at a league meeting. Go and talk to your players, have that conversation. Work with them, go with them on a ride-along. Many of our owners have by the way. They've gone on ride-alongs, they've gone to bail hearings. I've had an owner with me from the Saints, Gayle Benson, who sat right there. It's the same thing, it'll move you to really understand."
The 2020 NFL season is only a few weeks away from kicking off. With the ongoing call for change and social justice, Goodell believes the NFL has an increased responsibility beyond providing sports entertainment.
"Yeah, I think it's called leadership, Emmanuel. You know, people look to the NFL for leadership," he said. "And so we have to meet the call. And that's what we do, right? I talk about that all the time. We're fortunate to be in that position of leadership. What we can't do is let people down."
In closing, Goodell made it known he's obliged to do more and to support players and that was his commitment to those seeking social justice reform.
"I believe the NFL's best days are ahead of it. By a long shot," Goodell said. "And it's my job to try to help make that vision become true. And I believe we will."
To view the full episode, see the link below.