No, Really: NFL's Goodell Upset Over 'Misrepresentation' of 'Patriotic' Anthem Kneelers

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has pretty much done a 180-degree flip-flop on his position over players kneeling during the national anthem, in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in May.

For those in need of a recap, the controversy began in 2016 when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick created a firestorm by kneeling in protest during the national anthem prior to a preseason game in San Diego against the Chargers.

At the time, Goodell was strongly opposed to the anthem protests.

Now, four years later, Goodell sees the protests from a “slightly different” perspective. The commissioner now not only approves of the anthem protests; he’s concerned that players who kneel are being “mischaracterized,” “misrepresented,” and otherwise misunderstood.

Over the nearly three months since Floyd’s death, Goodell has on multiple occasions profusely apologized to Kaepernick, prostrated himself before the Black Lives Matter altar, and vowed to help stamp out so-called “systemic racism in our communities.”

During once such prostration in June, he said of Kaepernick:

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. 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.

During a weekend conversation with former NFL player Emmanuel Acho, on Acho’s “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” YouTube channel, Goodell said the protests have never been about the flag, as he expressed frustration over players and their protests being misunderstood for a number of things he claimed just aren’t true.

Hers’s how he pandered to Acho tried to sell it:

“It is not about the flag. The message here, what our players are doing, is being mischaracterized. 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.”

He later said: “I wish we had listened, earlier, Kaep, to what you were kneeling about, and what you were trying to bring attention to.”

Stop the tape.

To claim it’s “not about the flag” is to split hairs. To suggest that Colin Kaepernick is “not unpatriotic,” nor “against our military” is a lie.

Following the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian terrorist-mastermind Qasem Soleimani in January, Kaepernick condemned the strike as an “American terrorist attack,” carried out to further “the expansion of American imperialism.”

Then there was this on Independence Day, this year.

“Black ppl have been dehumanized, brutalized, criminalized + terrorized by America for centuries, & are expected to join your commemoration of “independence,” while you enslaved our ancestors. We reject your white supremacy & look forward to liberation for all.”

And Goodell focuses on the flag — as if to exonerate Kaepernick from his anti-American rhetoric? As if to suggest the death of George Floyd — as horrific as it was —now excuses Kaepernick and others who have specifically protested against far more than “police brutality”?

Nonetheless the “misrepresentation” has really “gnawed” at Goodell.

“What they were trying to do is exercise their right to bring attention to something that needs to get fixed. That misrepresentation of who they were and what they were doing was the thing that really gnawed at me.”

At one point, Acho asked Goodell this question:

After seeing the murder of George Floyd on camera, what was the most valuable lesson you learned about yourself in these last four or five months? Specifically after witnessing that, and so many other injustices?

Stop the tape.

“The murder of George Floyd.” I must have missed the memo about a murder conviction in the death of Floyd. This is not to suggest that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who infamously kneeled on Floyd’s neck, won’t be convicted of murder.

What it is to say is two autopsies were conducted on Floyd’s body.

An autopsy conducted by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner found “no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxiation or strangulation.”

A second autopsy commissioned by Floyd’s family found that Floyd died by asphyxia. Still other reports alleged Floyd’s death was caused by an overdose of the powerful opioid fentanyl.

I apologize for the lengthy digression, but given that we live in a country where the accused are innocent until proven guilty, the statement, “The murder of George Floyd,” regardless of who says or believes it, has not yet been proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

That is important here because all too frequently, these days, the narrative becomes fact. Personally, I’ll wait for the verdict.

Nonetheless, Goodell’s sentiment about watching the “horrific” video of Floyd’s last moments was well said — if nothing else.

“It was horrific to see that play out on the screen. There was a part of me that said ‘I hope people realize that’s what the players were protesting. And that’s what going on in our communities. You see it now on television — but that’s been going on for a long, long, time.”

Yeah, it changes you, he said, “You feel that, deeply.”

Meanwhile, there’s always Portland — where the band plays on.