Roger Goodell: I 'encourage' a team to sign QB Colin Kaepernick

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is encouraging a team to sign free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

"If he wants to resume his career in the NFL, then obviously it's gonna take a team to make that decision," Goodell told ESPN's Mike Greenberg on a special edition of "SportsCenter" on Monday. "But I welcome that, support a club making that decision and encourage them to do that."

Kaepernick, who led the San Francisco 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII, hasn't played in the NFL since the 2016 season when he peacefully protested social injustice and police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem.

Goodell also expressed his desire for Kaepernick's participation in the NFL off the field, welcoming his voice on the social issues that plague the country today.

"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," Goodell said. "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."

Earlier this month, Goodell admitted the NFL was "wrong" for not listening to protesting players earlier, appearing in a video one day after a number of notable players posted a unifying video of their own that called on the league to "condemn racism and a systemic oppression of black people … admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting … believe black lives matter."

"We had spent the weeks prior to that listening, learning, trying to understand all the frustration and fear and sadness that all of us were going through, particularly those in the black community," Goodell said. "I heard a lot from our players. Then a video came out Thursday night and I thought it was very powerful. I thought it was very clear, and I thought it was appropriate for me to respond directly to that, and make it clear on how we feel about the oppression of black people and condemning racism. We should have listened to our players earlier. Our players, including Colin Kaepernick, including Eric Reid, including Kenny Stills, and so many others (Malcolm Jenkins), they really brought these issues to light. and it actually goes back to 2014 in Ferguson.

"Our players have been at the forefront in bringing attention to these issues, and really working to try and make a difference in the communities. We have been doing that over the last couple of years and I'm proud of the work we're doing, but we all have more work to do."

"Our country was going through something where we were seeing these things that our players had highlighted, including Colin and so many others," Goodell said about the ongoing nationwide protests after the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody. "What they were talking about and what they were protesting and what they were trying to bring attention to was playing out right in front of us -- and tragically. And so all of us saw that, and it was difficult for all of us. And so that was an important point for all of us."

Goodell also discussed how teams and owners have contributed to the effort to end racial injustice.

"We've had conversations for several years about this and they have been incredibly supportive," Goodell said. "Supportive of their players, their communities, which are critically important here, and trying to make a difference. They help fund efforts, they have been part of those efforts in action, they brought awareness to those issues in the communities and I believe they're looking at where our society is now and saying, 'we the NFL need to step up and help solve the problems the best we can.' They're incredibly supportive and I think are gonna help play a leadership role along with the rest of us."

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Goodell was one of several league commissioners brought on the "The Return of Sports" special on ESPN's "SportsCenter."

Earlier in the day, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported that multiple players for the Cowboys and Texans had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

"So positive tests are going to happen," Goodell said in response to the news. "The issue is, can we obviously prevent as many of those from happening, but in addition, treat them quickly, isolate them and prevent them from directly impacting our player personnel.

"So none of those players were in the facilities. All of those players, fortunately, have had either mild symptoms or are asymptomatic."

With the league taking strict measures this offseason in order to ensure a safe environment at NFL team facilities, Goodell was asked about the recent comments from Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who voiced his concerns about the NFL's COVID-19 protocol, calling the expectations "humanly impossible."

"One of the things that we're all going to have to do, just like we did with the draft, is adapt and change," Goodell explained. "Do things that we might have thought were impossible several weeks ago or even months ago. So, from our standpoint, what we have to do is do that. The protocols are stringent, they're designed to be that because they're protecting the safety of our players and our personnel, including coaches, and making sure we're doing everything reasonable. They're developed by experts, not just in the NFL and NFLPA, who've worked alongside us, but outside experts from DICON at Duke (University) and so many infectious disease experts that have been helpful to us in thinking through that and doing it in a way is going to protect our players and personnel. But also, it will evolve. If the circumstances change, we will be changing our protocols appropriately."

As part of Goodell's appearance, ESPN awarded the NFL with the "League Humanitarian Leadership Award" for the NFL's "Huddle for 100" initiative in 2019.

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