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Roger Goodell: “I’ve encouraged” teams to sign Colin Kaepernick

Mike Tirico sits down with Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith to discuss how the conversation of social justice will be displayed on the field, what they say to people who don't want politics involved in sports, and more.

The NFL season begins with Colin Kaepernick in the game, but not in the game.

The man added to the Madden NFL video game continues to not be in the NFL itself. Commissioner Roger Goodell has recently addressed Kaepernick’s ongoing absence from the league in a pair of conversations with NBC employees.

In an on-camera discussion between Goodell and Mike Tirico, Tirico asked Goodell what he’d say if an owner called and asked for advice on whether to sign Kaepernick.

“They usually don’t ask me about who they’re gonna sign,” Goodell said. “It starts with that. But that conversation has happened many times and I’ve encouraged them to do that. . . . We had a tryout where 26 clubs came to watch him try out last year and so that was the kind of effort to sort of say, ‘Listen, if you want to continue your career, here’s the opportunity.’ Those are decisions that each individual owner has to make, and their club, their coaches, their General Manager. And I’ve talked to a lot of our clubs about it. And so I’d encourage them, and I’d love to see him play again.”

That meshes with Goodell’s recent remarks to Peter King, for NBC’s Football Morning in America.

“Those are club decisions,” Goodell told Peter King. “I’ve encouraged teams to evaluate that and sign him if they feel that’s the case. I’m happy if Kaep gets an opportunity but that’s, you know . . . Teams don’t usually ask me for advice on football hires.”

One of the lingering questions regarding Kaepernick is whether he wants to play. The answer isn’t commonly known, because no team has asked him that question in more than three years.

“The last time I spoke to Colin, he was definitely interested in playing,” NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith during the conversation involving Goodell and Tirico. “Obviously, the union supported him not only during his [collusion] case against the National Football League, but we actually sent someone down to his tryout in order to make sure that it was gonna proceed in a good and fair and a balanced way. I would love to see him in the National Football League, I know there’s tons of fans who would love to see him in the National Football League but where Colin sits right now in America is where he is playing football or not, he started a conversation on a national level.”

But Kaepernick isn’t currently part of the conversation from within the league, because his role in starting the conversation by all appearances has kept him out of the league. Does that undermine the work the NFL has been doing to promote and advance social justice?

“No,” Goodell told King. “How could it, when our players are out and for the last several years, players and teams are making important changes in their community with important programs?”

That’s arguably a separate issue. It’s possible that the league collectively deserves immense credit for the work that has been done to promote these important causes, but that the league collectively deserves ample blame for allowing those who objected to Kaepernick’s peaceful protests to influence teams to shun Kaepernick.