Roger Goodell didn’t exactly criticize Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the national anthem, but he doesn’t sound too high on the move, either.
The NFL commissioner commented for the first time on Kaepernick’s silent protest when asked about it by The Associated Press. Goodell acknowledged Kaepernick’s right to protest but said he didn’t agree with the way the San Francisco 49ers quarterback has chosen to express himself.
“I support our players when they want to see change in society, and we don’t live in a perfect society. We live in an imperfect society,” Goodell said, according to full comments obtained by NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. “On the other hand, we believe very strongly in patriotism in the NFL. I personally believe very strongly in that. I think it’s important to have respect for our country, for our flag, for the people who make our country better; for law enforcement, and for our military who are out fighting for our freedoms and our ideals.
“These are all important things for us, and that moment is a very important moment. So, I don’t necessarily agree with what he is doing. We encourage our players to be respectful in that time and I like to think of it as a moment where we can unite as a country. And that’s what we need more, and that’s what I think football does — it unites our country. So I would like to see us focusing on our similarities and trying to bring people together.”
Kaepernick first sat during the national anthem before the 49ers’ preseason game against the Green Bay Packers on Aug. 26. He explained that it was a way for him to protest what he believes is the mistreatment of minorities in the United States.
Other athletes, including 49ers teammate Eric Reid and Seattle Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane, since have joined Kaepernick in sitting during “The Star Spangled Banner” prior to games. It’s a protest that likely will extend into the NFL regular season regardless of Goodell’s stance.
“Players have a platform, and it’s his right to do that. We encourage them to be respectful and it’s important for them to do that,” Goodell said, per NFL.com.
“I think it’s important if they see things they want to change in society, and clearly we have things that can get better in society, and we should get better. But we have to choose respectful ways of doing that so that we can achieve the outcomes we ultimately want and do it with the values and ideals that make our country great.”
Thumbnail photo via Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY Sports Images