LeBron James recently spoke out about the NFL, saying that the league needs to apologize to former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who kneeled during the national anthem in 2016 and 2017. ESPN host Stephen A. Smith generally agrees with James on several issues, but he disagreed with the recent comments. Smith said that he believes the NFL owners are the ones — not Commissioner Roger Goodell — that owe Kaepernick an apology for the lack of opportunities.
"I haven't disagreed with LeBron James about much in recent memory," Smith said. "But I disagree with him on this and anybody who feels that Roger Goodell owes Colin Kaepernick an apology. It's not Roger Goodell who owes Colin Kaepernick an apology. It's the NFL owners who owe Colin Kaepernick an apology. Roger Goodell, as the Commissioner of the National Football League, was working in concert with Jay-Z and Roc Nation. He tried to get Colin Kaepernick a tryout."
Smith continued and expressed the belief that Goodell was trying to explain to the owners that Kaepernick was not trying to disrespect the American flag. The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback was trying to bring attention to police brutality and racial inequality. Smith said that the owners simply did not listen to Goodell. They "ignored him while using him as a buffer" to cover for their negligence.
James originally made his comments during an interview with Bloomberg News. He praised NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and said that the shield protects its players when they feel the need to speak up about social or political issues. James expressed the opinion that the NFL did not treat Kaepernick in the same manner and thus needs to apologize.
"As far as the NFL, I'm not in those locker rooms, I'm not with those guys, but I do understand that an apology — I have not heard a true, official apology to Colin Kaepernick on what he was going through and what he was trying to tell the NFL and tell the world about why he was kneeling when he was doing that as a San Francisco 49er," James said. "I just see that to still be wrong. Now they are listening some, but I still think we have not heard that official apology to a man who basically sacrificed everything for the better of this world."
Goodell released a video in early June that admitted the league was incorrect in how it handled Kaepernick's protests. He said that the league condemns racism and the systematic oppression of Black people. Goodell then ended the video by saying that the NFL was wrong in "silencing players from peacefully protesting."