SANTA CLARA: File photo taken on October 23, 2016, Colin Kaepernick (C) and Eric Reid (R) of the San Francisco 49ers kneel in protest during the national anthem prior to their NFL game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. — AFP

LOS ANGELES: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday he would welcome exiled quarterback Colin Kaepernick back into the league in any capacity, including as a player.

Goodell told that he encourages teams to sign the 32-year-old former San Francisco 49ers player and invited Kaepernick’s input on racial and social programs that are being run by the league.

“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. “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 for a long time.

“But I hope we’re at a point now where everybody’s committed to making long-term, sustainable change.” Goodell admitted earlier this month that the league was wrong to silence player protests as it responded to calls from a group of players to issue an explicit condemnation of racism.

In an earlier video message posted on social media, Goodell said the league would now support peaceful protests from players in future. 

But asked about President Donald Trump’s recent tweet which indicated Goodell might be too soft on players who in Trump’s view disrespect the flag, Goodell dodged the question. “I can’t answer that,” he said. 

Asked what his relationship with Trump is like, Goodell would only say, “He recognizes the input of sports and that we can be part of a wave to bring some normalcy to our communities.” Kaepernick filed a grievance with the NFL in 2017 alleging the owners conspired to keep him out of the league after he sparked a kneeling campaign to protest treatment of blacks in America. In February 2019, he settled for an undisclosed amount of money. 

That same month multiple US media outlets reported Kaepernick was in talks with the Alliance of American Football about a job but wanted a guaranteed $20 million per season. At the time quarterbacks were making an average of $250,000 a year.

Last November, Kaepernick balked at an NFL-arranged workout for all 32 teams and instead decided at the last minute to stage his own on an Atlanta-area high school field which was attended by scouts from eight teams. Kaepernick has not played in the NFL in four years. In 12 games with the San Francisco 49ers in 2016, he completed 59.2 percent of his passes, threw 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. 

A second-round draft pick in 2011, Kaepernick started 58 games over six seasons with the 49ers and passed for 12,271 yards with 72 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. 

During the 2012 season, he led San Francisco to Super Bowl XLVII, a 34-31 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Goodell also reacted to on Monday to reports in the US media that some players on the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys have tested positive for COVID-19.

“Positive tests are going to happen,” Goodell said. “The issue is, can we obviously prevent as many of those from happening, but in addition, treat them quickly, isolate them and prevent them from directly impacting our player personnel.

“So none of those players were in the facilities. All of those players, fortunately, have had either mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.”— AFP