San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (C) takes a knee during the national anthem before a game between the Niners and Dallas Cowboys at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on October 2, 2016. File Photo by John Mabanglo/EPA
June 16 (UPI) -- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is encouraging one of the league's teams to sign free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a controversial figure who began to kneel before games four years ago during the national anthem as a protest against injustice and police brutality.
Goodell made the appeal on The Return of Sports special on ESPN Monday.
Kaepernick hasn't played in the league since the 2016 season, when his actions generated substantial controversy. His failure to sign with a team has been strongly linked to the silent protests, which was adopted by a number of other players that season.
Kaepernick met with the Seattle Seahawks in 2017 but was not signed, and went unsigned last off-season after he worked out for several teams. Kaepernick has been linked to several teams since those workouts.
"If he wants to resume his career in the NFL, then obviously it's gonna take a team to make that decision," Goodell said. "But I welcome that, support a club making that decision and encourage them to do that."
Goodell also welcomed Kaepernick to "help" and "guide" the NFL on social issues that have recently led to unrest and protests in the United States after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.
"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," Goodell added. "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."
Goodell issued a statement last week that said the NFL was "wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier" when they tried to draw attention to racial inequality. He did not mention Kaepernick's name in the apology, but the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback was one of the players he cited Monday during the ESPN special.
"We should have listened to our players earlier," he said. "Including Colin Kaepernick, including Eric Reid, including Kenny Stills, and so many others, Malcolm Jenkins -- so many people that really brought these issues to light. It actually goes back to 2014 in Ferguson (Mo.) when Michael Brown was killed."
This month, the NFL committed $250 million over 10 years to social justice initiatives and said it will work with players to identify programs that address criminal justice and police reform, as well as economic and educational advancement for African Americans.
Kaepernick, 32, didn't immediately respond to Goodell's comments. Sources told The Athletic and Pro Football Talk earlier this month that Kaepernick is still interested in a return to the NFL.