Earlier this week, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported that Goodell himself may join a large portion of players that are expected to kneel when the national anthem is played during Week 1 of the 2020 regular season. One player that, if the season started today, would not be able to take part in a Week 1 protest is Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback who started kneeling in 2016 to raise awareness for police brutality. On Tuesday, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said that Kaepernick, who hasn't played in the NFL since the 2017 season, should have "every opportunity" to resume his NFL career.
"I think [the NFL] referenced that they have made mistakes in terms of how they've handled peaceful protests and players voicing their opinions," Ryan said, via ESPN's Vaughn McClure. "I think they've recognized that they've made mistakes there. And as far as Colin being back in the league, I think he should have every opportunity to. He created awareness for a situation that, it's taken some time, but people are becoming more active in terms of their response to it.
"I think, from that standpoint, his protest is being heard at this point, but it's taken too long. But I think he should have every opportunity to have a job and to have a spot at this point."
Ryan isn't the only NFL player that has recently lobbied for Kaepernick's return to the sideline. Seattle Seahawks running back Carlos Hyde, who played with Kaepernick in San Francisco, said that an NFL team signing Kaepernick would show how serious the NFL is about helping improve racial inequalities.
"I think the NFL can start by signing Kap back," Hyde said, via ESPN's Brady Henderson. "I think if they sign Kap back, that'll show that they're really trying to move in a different direction. Because Kap was making a statement four years ago about what's going on in today's world and the NFL didn't bother to listen to him then, so I think they should start by doing that. After that, I'm not really sure what the NFL can do."
While his kneeling during the national anthem became a national focus in 2017, Kaepernick actually started that practice a year earlier, during the 2016 preseason. When initially asked about his protest, Kaepernick said that he did not ask permission from the 49ers. He added that he would continue to kneel despite whatever repercussions may come from it.
"This is not something that I am going to run by anybody," he said, via The Undefeated. "I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. … If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right."
While his numbers weren't gaudy by any stretch, Kaepernick, who is still just 32 years old, showed no signs of slowing down in 2016, his last season as a starting NFL quarterback. That season, despite playing on a 49ers team that was in the middle of a rebuild, Kaepernick threw 16 touchdowns against just four interceptions while nearly matching his career average for completion percentage. Kaepernick also rushed for 468 yards and two scores while averaging a career-best 6.8 yards per carry.
Kaepernick played exceptionally well during his last two games as a starting NFL quarterback. Matched up against the Rams and Seahawks, Kaepernick completed 76.3% of his passes for 481 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed for a score while during the team's victory over Los Angeles before nearly leading San Francisco to an upset win over the Seahawks.
Speaking of the Seahawks, Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon recently told TMZ Sports that Seattle would be an ideal fit for Kaepernick. In Seattle, Kaepernick would backup Russell Wilson, who is coming off an MVP caliber season that resulted in the Seahawks advancing to the second round of the NFC playoffs.
And like Ryan and Hyde, Moon believes that Kaepernick deserves an opportunity to be back on an NFL roster in 2020.
"If he's willing to play football and put the time in that it's gonna take to be a quarterback in the NFL, [then] he definitely deserves an opportunity to get that," Moon said, "because he was definitely misinterpreted four years ago with his stand."