Well, it’s not too late to start listening now.

We have all become more aware of racial injustice in the past months, but in reality, it is a problem that has been going on for centuries. The path towards eradicating this problem begins with conversation, and former linebacker and commentator Emmanuel Acho knows this very well.

In the latest episode of his series of interviews titled “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man”, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell opened up about how his views about players’ stands against racism have changed.

In 2016, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made the headlines after he refused to stand during the national anthem as a protest about the constant discrimination and injustice black people suffer every day in the United States. Read that again. Even so, it was seen as something highly controversial, and eventually cost him his position in the NFL.

But Roger Goodell stated he now regrets his initial response towards what Kaepernick did back then. “I wish we had listened earlier, Kap, to what you were kneeling about and what you were trying to bring attention to,” Goodell responded after being asked what he would say in an apology to Kaepernick now.

Goodell mentioned how racial injustice is something we see on television frequently, but that he realizes it’s been going on for a long, long time. “That’s where we should have listened sooner. And we should have been in there with them, understanding it and figuring out what we can do as the NFL,” he commented.

With the amount of power that the Black Lives Matter movement has gained this year, a conversation that was once non-existent in the NFL is finally starting to happen within that organization.

“We can’t solve all problems, but we’re big in our communities, we have a platform, we have an opportunity. And we’re using that effectively now. I wish we could have been doing it earlier”, Goodell told Acho.

Kaepernick isn’t alone in his fight against racial injustice. Over the years, some of the biggest NFL players have demanded the owners admit how they’ve “silenced” players who have stood up for the Black Lives Matter movement. So a big change in how the NFL uses their huge platform to stand up to racism is still awaited by many. 

This is when Goodell’s first comments about conversation as a first step to eradicate racial issues resonate the most. “You really don’t learn until you’re uncomfortable. And really, when you get uncomfortable it forces you to resort to something you’re not comfortable with, right? And it gives you an opportunity to learn.”

Before this interview, Goodell had previously appeared in a video shared by the official NFL Twitter page, where they stated that the NFL condemns racism and the systematic oppression of black people. They also mentioned that they were wrong as an organization for not listening to their players.

Will this year be a turning point for the NFL? Hopefully, these statements will translate into actions that will contribute to eradicating a systematic problem as harmful as racism.