In a weekend interview, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell exclaimed that he believes that anthem protests are “not about the flag” and wishes he had “listened” to Colin Kaepernick earlier.
Goodell issued his lamentations on FS1 host Emmanuel Acho’s YouTube series, “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man,” on Sunday.
Acho brought up Goodell’s admission in June that the league badly handled the national anthem protests starting in 2016 when Kaepernick first began his protests.
In June, Goodell said it was “wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.”
But Acho pointed out that Goodell did not specifically mention Kaepernick in that June “apology,” and he wondered if the commissioner had anything to add to that apology now.
“Well, the first thing I’d say is I wish we had listened earlier, Kaep, to what you were kneeling about and what you were trying to bring attention to,” Goodell replied. “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. We would have benefited from that, absolutely.”
After Acho outlined some of the criticism that patriots and conservatives have about the protests, Goodell countered that those concerns are wrong.
“Sometimes,” Goodell said, “because I’ve known for years now that the peaceful protests during the national anthem — it was never about the flag — to the point where I just want to rip out my hair sometimes and say ‘it’s not about the flag.’ If you were to be able to relay that message what would you say? Like to people who still think it’s about the flag, what would you tell them?”
“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,” Goodell concluded.
But this historical revisionism about what Kaepernick meant when he first began protesting has obscured what the player was really saying in those early days,. In fact, Kaepernick’s words and actions proved it was about the flag and the country.
When Kaepernick first began protesting in 2016, he said quite directly that he could not stand for the American flag. His protest was a direct attack on the flag and the country, and he said so in his own words that August.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” Kaepernick said.
Kaepernick gave other clues about the nature of his protests in 2016, as well. For instance, he wore a shirt praising Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, a mass murderer, and self-professed enemy of America. Kaepernick also showed that he was not just protesting the few police that misbehave when he wore socks that portrayed all police officers as pigs.
Also, in 2016, Kaepernick said that the U.S. was never great, noting that he was standing up against the whole country in general, not just in support of “social justice,” with his anthem protests.
But the attack on the flag continued years later. The former NFL player also made his protest about the flag when he forced Nike to ditch its Betsy Ross flag shoes in 2019. Nike announced that it intended to release a patriotic gym shoe with a Betsy Ross Flag theme until Kaepernick ginned up the anti-American left to attack Nike for the proposal. In one of his broadsides against Nike, Kaepernick even claimed that the U.S. Betsy Ross flag was a “symbol of slavery.”
Unsurprisingly, Nike immediately caved in and dumped the plans for the patriotic shoe.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Facebook at: facebook.com/Warner.Todd.Huston.