Offering his first public comments since Colin Kaepernick began his national anthem protest, the NFL's commissioner, Roger Goodell, stressed that he supports the right to protest, even in a league in which patriotism plays such a visible role, but that he disagrees personally with Kaepernick.
Goodell was asked Wednesday about the decision by the San Francisco 49ers quarterback to remain seated during the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner to raise awareness of racial injustice in the United States.
"I support our players when they want to see change in society, and we don't live in a perfect society," he told the Associated Press. "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."
Since his protest sparked a national debate, Kaepernick has seen fans burn his jersey — and then watched as it became the best-seller in the NFL's online shop. (Kaepernick announced on Instagram Wednesday that he will donate all the money he receives from the sales to charity.)
Kaepernick, who says he intends to continue his protest, will get his chance Monday night when the 49ers open the season.
"People are getting lost in what the true message is and don't want to address what is ... really the problem. I wish people would get as outraged about the murders that are happening in the street as they are the protest," he said Wednesday.
Kaepernick's protest has devoured news cycles leading up to Week 1 of the new season. Still, he said his focus remains on reclaiming the starting quarterback job that for now belongs to Blaine Gabbert.
"I have to wait my time, and work," Kaepernick said. "I've been in this position before. Last time I was in this position, I ended up in the Super Bowl. So I continue to work and prepare for when that next opportunity comes."
Also on Wednesday, Kaepernick knocked down rumors that he has converted to Islam and that his girlfriend, who is Muslim, led him to protest social injustices.
"I have great respect for the religion, know a lot of people that are Muslim and are phenomenal people,'' Kaepernick said. "But I think that (rumor of conversion) comes along with people's fear of this protest, as well as Islamophobia in this country. People are terrified of them to the point where (Donald) Trump wants to ban all Muslims from coming here, which is ridiculous."