Media's Hearing Problem: NFL's Apology Taken As Exoneration Of Kaepernick

June 6th, 2020 3:36 PM

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Friday issued a video statement apologizing for the league's refusal to listen to players protests of police brutality. USA Today called it an exoneration of Colin Kaepernick's pathetic behavior in 2016 and demands he be signed by an NFL team. Deadspin says the commissioner didn't go nearly far enough and should have issued a lengthy apology to Kaepernick.

Goodell said:

Goodell also said: “The protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff. We are listening. I am listening. …(We) encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We the National Football League believe black lives matter. … Without black players, there would be no National Football League.”

USA Today's Kaepernick devotee Christine Brennan heard something entirely different:

As Goodell uttered the words 'we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier,' who in the sports universe, and probably the entire country, didn’t immediately picture Colin Kaepernick? Who didn’t think of the way the league shunned and blackballed the former San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl quarterback, mischaracterizing his message of non-violent protest and passing him over for jobs time and again over the past four years?

It’s worth asking why Goodell didn’t apologize to Kaepernick by name in his extraordinary statement. Perhaps an NFL lawyer nixed the idea. Perhaps the apology, public or private, is coming some other time.



Brennan has been praising Kaepernick throughout his four years as a toxic, unwanted free agent. Perhaps an NFL team will sign him now, she desperately hopes. "Friday night would have been nice," but it should happen very soon, she writes:

"The league now needs him more than he needs the league. Perhaps Goodell providing cover for the team who will sign him is enough of an apology, at least for one night, although 'cover' is the wrong word now. The team that brings in Kaepernick will be celebrated throughout the nation. Teams should be falling over themselves to do it."

Brennan also surmises that Commissioner Goodell might intend to kneel with players during the NFL season. "How can it not mean that?" she wonders. "Goodell would be in good company if he joined players to kneel during the national anthem."

Extrapolating Goodell's comments into an SJW wish list, Brennan takes it a step further, asking about the "repugnant" Redskins nickname and the "terrible" tomahawk chop of the Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Braves. If Goodell is serious about his remarks, she says, "then it sounds like he will work to get rid of names and rituals such as these. And if that’s where he is headed, then this truly is the watershed moment it appears to be."

Brennan also thinks she heard Goodell defying President Donald Trump, a strong opponent of athletes kneeling during the national anthem. She says the NFL owners who support Trump can't be happy with Goodell's statement.

"But this is bigger than them, bigger than their league," Brennan writes. "If it’s a choice between Trump and Kaepernick, Goodell made the right call. He chose peaceful protest. He chose Black Lives Matter. He chose his players. He chose the latter."

Deadspin writers Eric Barrow and Chris Baud are more concerned about what Goodell should have said:

"We, the NFL, were wrong not to listen to Colin Kaepernick. We were wrong for not understanding nor appreciating the eloquence of his kneeling, the importance of his peaceful protest. We were wrong to try to silence him and bow to pressure from President Trump to 'get that son of a bitch off the field.' ”

Additionally, they wrote Goodell should have said the NFL was wrong to deprive Kaepernick of his livelihood, to deprive his fans of his talent, for not appreciating the leadership he showed, for not letting him teach owners about their prejudices and failings. "We should have celebrated you," Barrow and Baud demanded.