The video published by Commissioner Roger Goodell on Friday regarding the league’s position on racism and peaceful protests represents Goodell’s finest moment in nearly 14 years on the job. But it also raises the stakes on a couple of open issues that now need to be addressed in light of the league’s new position.
“We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people,” Goodell said in the video. “We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier, and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter.”
So what will they, the National Football League, now be doing about the ongoing blackballing of quarterback Colin Kaepernick?
Last weekend, former NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart twisted himself into a knot to defend the league’s treatment of Kaepernick but to blame the teams for not employing Kaepernick in the three-plus years since he became a free agent after sparking peaceful anthem protests aimed at bringing attention to system racism and police brutality against minorities. But here’s the reality, a reality that anyone who has paid any attention to the inner workings of the NFL knows all too well: If the league had really wanted to place Kaepernick on a team, it would have.
Deals get made all the time between the league office and teams, often with copious amounts winking and nodding and/or trading of horses. For whatever reason, the NFL didn’t previously prioritize Kaepernick’s employment sufficiently enough to do a deal like that with one of the league’s teams, hiding behind the notion initially that teams make decisions with an eye toward winning before shifting the narrative to the notion that teams make decisions that suit their best interests (i.e., not scaring away certain customers).
The closest the league came to getting Kaepernick a job happened last November, when the league set up a workout for Kaepernick that ultimately collapsed due to fault on both sides and that otherwise made no sense because any team could bring him in for a workout at any time, and to this day no one has. Will this now be the moment when the league goes the next step, negotiating directly with teams that may want to host a Super Bowl or a draft or who may want something else and offer it as consideration for signing Kaepernick?
That’s how the sausage often gets made. It will be interesting to see whether the league will soon be churning the meat grinder for a main course that would follow its humble-pie appetizer. It also will be interesting to see whether the same players that demanded the league’s most recent gesture will parlay the victory into demanding that the man who tried to spark change years ago, long before the murder of George Floyd and others, should have his career restored.