NFL commissioner Roger Goodell broke his silence on San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to protest during the playing of the national anthem at football games.
The full comments by Goodell to the Associated Press can be viewed below:
“Well my personal thoughts are... I support our players when they want to see change in society, and we don't live in a perfect society. We live in an imperfect society. On the other hand, we believe very strongly in patriotism in the NFL. I personally believe very strongly in that. I think it's important to have respect for our country, for our flag, for the people who make our country better; for law enforcement, and for our military who are out fighting for our freedoms and our ideals.
"These are all important things for us, and that moment is a very important moment. So, I don't necessarily agree with what he is doing. We encourage our players to be respectful in that time and I like to think of it as a moment where we can unite as a country. And that's what we need more, and that's what I think football does—it unites our country. So I would like to see us focusing on our similarities and trying to bring people together.
"Players have a platform, and it's his right to do that. We encourage them to be respectful and it's important for them to do that.
"I think it's important if they see things they want to change in society, and clearly we have things that can get better in society, and we should get better. But we have to choose respectful ways of doing that so that we can achieve the outcomes we ultimately want and do it with the values and ideals that make our country great."
Kaepernick has decided not to stand for the national anthem before games in protest of racial inequalities and injustices in America, including police-related violence. He was joined by teammate Eric Reid in the movement as both took a knee as the anthem played in the team's final preseason game.
Soccer player Megan Rapinoe has also decided to join in the protest.
The 49ers will open their season against the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night.