Roger Goodell Backs Players’ Right To Protest During National Anthem

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In Week 1 of the NFL preseason, Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch and Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett both sat during the pregame national anthem, continuing an ongoing protest that began last season.

That protest has the support of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

Speaking Monday at a gathering of Arizona Cardinals season ticket holders, Goodell said he respects the players’ right to made social or political statements during the anthem. These statements have included sitting, raising a fist and kneeling, the latter of which has created a firestorm of controversy surrounding former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

“It’s one of those things where we have to understand that there are people who have different viewpoints,” Goodell said, via ESPN.com. “It’s something that I think everybody wants. The national anthem is a special moment for me. It’s a point of pride. That is a really important moment, but we also have to understand the other side — that people do have rights, and we want to respect those.”

Goodell did add, however, that there is “a time and place” for protesting, repeating a line he said a New York Jets player used during a fan forum earlier this summer.

“That’s what we all have to, sort of, understand — the responsibility of doing it at the right time and in the right way,” Goodell said. “Protest to progress is what I call it. We all have to recognize that people want to see change. Let’s go out and try to make that happen in a peaceful and an important way.”

Many have pointed to Kaepernick’s activism as the reason no team has signed the 29-year-old. Kaepernick, who knelt during the anthem throughout last season, remains a free agent, with the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins both passing on him after losing their starting QBs to injuries during training camp.

Thumbnail photo via Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY Sports Images

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