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Stephen A. Smith Responds to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s Overtures to Colin Kaepernick: ‘Goodell Isn’t the Problem, the Owners Are the Problem’

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says he supports the idea of teams signing Colin Kaepernick. Stephen A. Smith has since responded to Goodell and said he’s placing his efforts in the wrong places when tackling social justice issues.

Kaepernick hasn’t played in the NFL since the end of the 2016 season. Before that, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback began kneeling for the national anthem at games to protest police brutality and systemic racism.

ESPN sports analyst Stephen A. Smith (left) responded to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (right) saying he supports NFL teams signing Colin Kaepernick (center). (Photos: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images, Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images, Icon Sportswire/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Goodell spoke about Kaepernick during a conversation on ESPN’s “The Return of Sports” on Monday, June 15, and said he’s behind the idea of him playing in the NFL again.

“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,” said Goodell.

“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 unfortunately for a long time.”

Smith was asked about Goodell’s words on ESPN’s “Get Up!” on Tuesday, June 16, and said he doesn’t blame him for Kaepernick not having a job as quarterback.

The sports analyst then talked about Goodell and Jay-Z organizing an NFL tryout for Kaepernick in 2019 to give an example of the commissioner trying to help.

The tryout was supposed to be in the Atlanta northern suburb of Flowery Branch, Georgia, but the quarterback-turned-activist didn’t show up. Instead, he moved it to a high school in Riverdale, Georgia, a suburb just south of Atlanta, because he wanted the media present so there would be more transparency.

“Commissioner Roger Goodell isn’t the problem, the owners are the problem,” said Smith at the 40-second mark of the segment.

Smith followed that statement by saying that Kaepernick still deserves a tryout under “fair and equitable” circumstances so his skills can be assessed.

The rest of his response to Goodell had to do with the NFL doing more to help support Black people and others in underserved areas. Smith also said the NFL’s efforts surrounding social justice should be about fighting racism overall.

“What I would like to see people asking Roger Goodell for, instead of just taking a knee or engaging in symbolic gestures, how about rallying a slew of owners to go up on Capitol Hill to push for federal legislation in combination with the lobbyist,” he stated.

“Why not go up on Capitol Hill and push for these legislations to be implemented and taken place?” Smith continued. “The businesses that patronize the NFL brand that obviously are strongly supported by the Black community. How about rallying with the players themselves and making sure that you impact those businesses by letting them know there’s more that they can do for minority and disenfranchised communities in this country. … So why not encourage Roger Goodell to engage in those kind of actions instead of engaging in symbolic gestures that amount to nothing.”

Smith was one of the people who was critical of Kaepernick after he turned down the NFL tryout last year. He was blasted afterward, especially by NFL player Eric Reid.

“You see, he don’t want to play. He wants to be a martyr,” said Smith on Instagram in November 2019. “But guess what? It ain’t working this time. All of us believe that Colin Kaepernick would’ve showed out and if he had showed out, I’m here to tell you, I believe he would’ve had a job inside of two weeks. But it didn’t happen because he didn’t show. … You don’t want to work. You want to make noise and you want to control the narrative.”

“Tap dancing for the NFL,” Damn straight Colin wants to control the narrative!” Reid shot back. “He supposed to trust the organization that blackballed him and has done absolutely nothing in good faith??? Born on Tuesday, just not last Tuesday.”

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