President Donald Trump has this week announced that he is in favour of a return to the NFL for former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has also expressed a desire to see Kaepernick come back, as well as issuing an apology for the way the league handled issues related to racism back in 2017.
Kaepernick has not played a snap in the league since opting out of his contract after being told by the San Francisco 49ers that he was surplus to requirements. In 2017, Trump was firmly against Kaepernick and the movement he represented, even asking NFL team owners to fire any player who chose the kneel during the national anthem. Last week saw Trump reaffirm his position on players demonstrating during the anthem, saying he would not watch any NFL games if players continued to kneel.
However, during a press conference this week the President said Kaepernick should ‘absolutely’ get another chance to play in the NFL if he is good enough but expressed doubt over the player’s form before he left the league.
“If he deserves it, he should,” President Trump said on Wednesday during an interview with WJLA in Washington DC. “If he has the playing ability.
“He started off great, and then he didn’t end up very great in terms of as a player. He was terrific in his rookie year. I think he was very good in his second year and then something happened. So his playing wasn’t up to snuff.”
“The answer is absolutely I would (like to see Kaepernick back in the league). As far as kneeling, I would love to see him get another shot. But obviously he has to be able to play well. If he can’t play well, I think it would be very unfair.”
After the surprise of failing to secure another job following his departure from San Francisco, Colin Kaepernick filed a grievance against the NFL, accusing team owners of collusion to keep him out of the league. The NFL’s attempts to dismiss the case were rejected and eventually a settlement was reached in 2019, meaning Kaepernick withdrew his grievance.
Last November, the league set up a workout for Kaepernick, to which scouts from all 32 NFL teams were due to attend. However, citing issues with the liability waiver and the fact it was closed to the media, Kaepernick changed the venue at the last minute and instead hosted a public throwing session at an Atlanta-area high school, in front of scouts from just seven NFL teams.
“We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. 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,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said during an announcement at the start of June.
“Well, listen, if he wants to resume his career in the NFL, then obviously it’s going to take a team to make that decision,” Goodell told ESPN’s Mike Greenberg. “But I welcome that, support a club making that decision and encourage them to do that.
“If his efforts are not on the field but continuing to work in this space, we welcome him to that table and to help us, guide us, help us make better decisions about the kinds of things that need to be done in the communities. We have invited him in before, and we want to make sure that everybody’s welcome at that table and trying to help us deal with some very complex, difficult issues that have been around for a long time.
“But I hope we’re at a point now where everybody’s committed to making long-term, sustainable change.”
“What they were talking about and what they were protesting and what they were trying to bring attention to was playing out right in front of us – and tragically,” Goodell responded when asked why the NFL chose to speak up. “And so all of us saw that, and it was difficult for all of us. And so that was an important point for all of us.”
With the return of football operations imminent, there are naturally concerns over the spread of Covid-19 between players and staff. Goodell and his staff have been working on protocols and contingency plans in the case of positive tests, as well as methods clubs and staff will have to follow to reduce the risk of infection as much as possible.
“So positive tests are going to happen,” Goodell said. “The issue is, can we obviously prevent as many of those from happening, but in addition, treat them quickly, isolate them and prevent them from directly impacting our player personnel.
“So none of those players were in the facilities. All of those players, fortunately, have had either mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.”