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Three years after Colin Kaepernick was exiled from the NFL for peacefully protesting racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem, the NFL’s leadership is singing a different tune about the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said the league was wrong for not listening to protests like Kaepernick’s, and that the league now encourages players to protest. He has also said he encourages teams to sign Kaepernick.
However, Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James wants to hear something else from the NFL commissioner: an apology.
LeBron: It’s ‘wrong’ NFL hasn’t apologized to Kaepernick
Speaking with Bloomberg Businessweek's Jason Kelly alongside his own business partner Maverick Carter, James said that while the NFL has made progress in grappling with protests against racial injustice, Kaepernick still deserves an apology.
The comments in question begin around the 1:44 mark:
“As far as the NFL, I’m not in those locker rooms, I’m not with those guys, but I do understand that an apology — I have not heard a true, official apology to Colin Kaepernick on what he was going through and what he was trying to tell the NFL and tell the world about why he was kneeling when he was doing that as a San Francisco 49er. I just see that to still be wrong. Now they are listening some, but I still think we have not heard that official apology to a man who basically sacrificed everything for the better of this world.”
The closest thing Kaepernick has received to an apology so far has been the multi-million dollar settlement with the NFL over his collusion grievance against the league last year, as well as Goodell’s statement saying that stamping out protests was wrong (without mentioning Kaepernick’s name).
The NFL’s former vice president of communications has since admitted the obvious, that Kaepernick’s protests and not his lack of skill were responsible for his lack of free agent interest around the league.
Carter seemed to note that Kaepernick’s protests were attempting to draw attention to the same thing the NFL later claimed to oppose after the killing of George Floyd:
“Colin Kaepernick did what was on his heart. He did what he felt was right. He took all the right steps. People always look over that he met with [former Green Beret Nate Boyer] that told him sitting was the wrong thing to do, that he should kneel. That’s actually where he got the idea.
“As Black people, we’ve been ringing this alarm for a long time, and the rest of the country — I happen to believe most people are good, so who are not even racists — has been hitting snooze on it. The system has been set up in a way that even if you’re not racist, you still perpetuate a system that oppresses Black people.”
That point about Boyer is indeed true. Boyer, then a long-snapper for the Seattle Seahawks, was the one who suggested that Kaepernick kneel instead of sit during the national anthem as a show of respect to the military.
In reality, there was likely nothing Kaepernick could do to bring attention to racial injustice that wouldn’t have triggered a blowback. It was the protest against racial injustice that many of his loudest critics were intent on opposing, not the kneeling. Anyone going along with that charade was culpable for the message sent by condemning such a peaceful protest, which was why Drew Brees saw a severe blowback from his own peers and why the NFL eventually had to change its tune.
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