NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell: Kaepernick is not being blackballed over anthem protests

Key Points
  • NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says Colin Kaepernick is always welcome to have discussions with the league.
  • The former 49ers quarterback was the first player to take a knee during the national anthem to protest the country's treatment of black people.
NFL Commissioner Goodell addresses the anthem controversy and stadium attendance
NFL Commissioner Goodell addresses the anthem controversy and stadium attendance

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told CNBC on Monday that Colin Kaepernick — who sparked the protests during the national anthem — is always welcome to have discussions with the league.

But Goodell stopped short of saying whether the free agent quarterback should be able play.

Kaepernick filed a grievance against the NFL in October, accusing the 32 NFL teams of colluding to keep him out. He remains unemployed after opting out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers at the end of last season. While on the 49ers, he started kneeling during the anthem to protest the treatment of African-Americans in the United States. Some prominent athletes, including NBA star LeBron James have said Kaepernick is getting blackballed.

"We've always invited Colin to come over," Goodell told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Monday. "He's welcome to come over and meet at any point and time. We had an open door on that. There was some meeting set up with the player's coalition, and they were invited by the player's coalition."

Asked whether Kaepernick should be playing in the NFL, Goodell responded: "Each and every club's got to make those decisions. ... They make those decisions based on a lot of factors that are best for their football team. And when they do that, that's what's in the best interest." He did say he does not believe Kaepernick is being blackballed.

Last week, Kaepernick was awarded the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, which recognizes athletes who use their platforms to further change. Singer Beyonce presented Kaepernick with the honor.

Goodell — who just signed a five-year contract extension reportedly worth up to $200 million — also addressed on CNBC the slide in NFL viewership, which President Donald Trump has blamed on the protests during the anthem. Earlier this year, Trump stepped into the controversy by blasting the protests and calling for NFL owners to fire any player who "disrespects our flag."

"Thursday Night is now the no. 2 show in all of entertainment," Goodell said. "When we do something, we do it well and we do it as an event."

In a move to expand the NFL's reach beyond the living room, Verizon announced a multiyear streaming partnership with the league on Monday — reportedly paying $1.5 billion — in a deal that allows fans on any mobile carrier to watch games on their smartphones.