NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday ducked questions about why quarterback Colin Kaepernick has remained unsigned for two seasons, saying if teams aren't signing him it's because they don't think he'll help them win.
"I’ve said it many times privately, publicly that our clubs are the ones that make decisions on players that they want to have on their roster," Goodell said at a press conference in Atlanta, the site of Sunday's Super Bowl.
"I think if a team decides that Colin Kaepernick or any other player can help their team win, that’s what they’ll do," he added. "They want to win, and they make those decisions individually in the best interest of their club.
The NFL has been dealing with questions about Kaepernick ever since he began kneeling in protest of racial disparities in the United States during the playing of the national anthem.
Kaepernick played the 2016 season with the San Francisco 49ers and then opted out of his contract to become a free agent. He went unsigned during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, leading to accusations he was being blackballed by the league for his activism.
The player has since filed a grievance alleging that league owners colluded to keep him off a team. An arbitrator ruled last August that Kaepernick's case will go to trial.
Among the quarterbacks who started games in the 2018 NFL season were Nathan Peterman, who threw for 24 yards and two interceptions in a game for Buffalo last season, and Mark Sanchez, who hadn't played since 2016 before starting for the Washington Redskins last year. Sanchez was benched after halftime of a 40-16 loss.
Goodell was asked multiple questions about why Kaepernick has remained unsigned. One reporter noted that the league's marquee event was taking place in Atlanta, home to civil rights icons like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rep. John LewisJohn LewisHarris, CBC put weight behind activist-led National Black Voter Day Budowsky: High stakes drama for Biden, Manchin, Sinema Stacey Abrams backs Senate Democrats' voting rights compromise MORE (D-Ga.).
Roger Goodell dances around Colin Kaepernick question when asked if NFL will look bad in history books because of how they handled the Kaep situation pic.twitter.com/0QPoSm1Aby— gifdsports (@gifdsports) January 30, 2019
Dozens of other NFL players have taken a knee, raised a fist or remained off the field during the playing of the national anthem since Kaepernick started the trend. The demonstrations peaked during the 2017 season after President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger says Trump 'winning' because so many Republicans 'have remained silent' Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol MORE suggested team owners should fire players who protest.
A few players protested during the anthem in the 2018 season, but the trend largely subsided.