The Rev. Al Sharpton chided the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday for an “empty apology” to its players that hasn’t included support - or a spot in the NFL - for former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Sharpton spoke at the funeral service of George Floyd, the Minnesota man killed by police whose death sparked two weeks of protests across the country.
Goodell apologized last week for not listening to NFL players during kneeling protests against police brutality in 2016 and 2017, but did not mention Kaepernick by name. Multiple NFL players, including Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the 2020 Super Bowl MVP, made a joint video last week demanding the NFL condemn “racism and the systemic oppression of black people.” Goodell did so in a video released Friday, but did not mention Kaepernick's name.
Those original protests began with Kaepernick sitting on the bench while the national anthem was played before a preseason game in 2016 and eventually led to him kneeling. He has not played an NFL game since Jan. 1, 2017.
“The head of the NFL said, ‘Yeah, maybe we was wrong. Football players, maybe they did have the right to peacefully protest,'” Sharpton said during the eulogy. “Well, don’t apologize. Give Colin Kaepernick a job back. Don’t come with some empty apology. Take a man’s livelihood. Strip a man down of his talents. And four years later, when the whole world is marching, all of a sudden you go and do a FaceTime, talk about you sorry. Minimizing the value of our lives. You sorry? Then repay the damage you did to the career you stood down, ’cause when Colin took a knee, he took it for the families in this building. And we don’t want an apology. We want him repaired.”
According to Pro Football Talk, a source says nothing is imminent on a potential Kaepernick return. No NFL teams have inquired about his availability since a league-scheduled workout in Georgia last November fell apart and Kaepernick held a workout of his own before just eight NFL scouts.
After a former NFL spokesperson wrote a column late last month for CNN saying the league was wrong in 2017, current NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy told Pro Football Talk: "Colin is a free agent. Clubs may sign him if they choose to do so.”
Sharpton wasn’t the only one to say the NFL needs to do more. Malcolm Jenkins, the New Orleans Saints safety and a co-founder of the Players Coalition, made a similar statement on CBS This Morning on Tuesday.
“I still don't think [the NFL has] gotten it right. Until they apologize, specifically, to Colin Kaepernick, or assign him to a team, I don't think that they will end up on the right side of history," Jenkins told CBS. "At the end of the day, they've listened to their players, they've donated money, they've created an Inspire Change platform. They've tried to do things up to this point. But it's been one player in particular that they have ignored and not acknowledged and that's Colin Kaepernick."
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