The commissioner of the NFL has said he wishes the league had “listened earlier” to Colin Kaepernick, the player who knelt during the national anthem to protest racial injustice.
Roger Goodell was asked how he would apologise to Kaepernick when he appeared on Emmanuel Acho’s Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.
The commissioner said: “Well the first thing I’d say is I wish we had listened earlier, Kap, to what you were kneeling about and what you were trying to bring attention to.
“We had invited him in several times to have the conversation, to have the dialogue. I wish we had the benefit of that. We never did.”
Mr Goodell said he now grasps why players were protesting and is frustrated when they are accused of disrespecting their country.
“It is not about the flag. These are not people who are unpatriotic. They’re not disloyal. They’re not against our military. In fact many of those guys were in the military and they’re a military family.
“What they were trying to do is exercise their right to bring attention to something that needs to get fixed.
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“That misrepresentation of who they were and what they were doing was the thing that really gnawed at me,” he added.
In June, Mr Goodell and the NFL publicly backed the Black Lives Matter movement and admitted to making mistakes in the past.
Kaepernick, a quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers, began his protest in 2016, saying: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour.
“There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
His protest was inspired by the kiling of unarmed black men by police officers in US cities, highlighted by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in March, which led to widespread anti-racism protests and demands for racial justice.
On Monday, Jacob Blake, a black man, was shot seven times in the back by police as he got into a car in Wisconsin, sparking protests in the city of Kenosha.
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Kaepernick’s protest was highlighted by Donald Trump who urged team owners to sack players who took a knee.
But, rather than die out, the gesture has become a symbol of the growing Black Lives Matter movement, spreading around the world and to many other sports, including basketball and baseball, as well as football and cricket.