In the immediate aftermath of Colin Kaepernick’s first protest of the national anthem, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he believed in the right to free speech, but also wanted to make sure everyone knew he was a genuine star-spangled patriot (if not a Patriot).
But in discussing the continued displays over the weeks since, Goodell said he appreciates the social conscience of players who choose to speak out, hoping they can use their voices in a way to solve some problems.
“As I’ve said before, I truly respect our players wanting to speak out and change the community,” Goodell said, via Ben Goessling of ESPN.com. “We don’t live in a perfect society. We want them to use that voice. They’re moving from protests to progress and trying to make things happen in the communities, and I admire that about our players [being] willing to do that.”
The phrase “from protests to progress” sounds Frank Luntz-style focus-group approved, but it’s at least a recognition that protests are happening. Goodell said he has not spoke with Kaepernick since the 49ers quarterback began sitting, then kneeling for the national anthem to bring attention to racism and police brutality.
“Obviously, we want to respect people,” Goodell said. “We want to respect our differences. We want to reflect our flag and our country, and our players understand that. So I think where they’re moving and how they’re moving there is very productive, and we’re going to encourage that.”
While it’s not exactly a stirring call to arms, it’s at least a recognition that enough players are willing to say something that it’s going to be hard to keep them all from doing so.