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A Nike ad featuring Colin Kaepernick on display in Manhattan in 2018. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told ESPN on Monday that he supports and encourages teams to sign QB Colin Kaepernick.

Why it matters: Goodell also said the NFL would welcome Kaepernick to help them "deal with some very complex, difficult issues that have been around for a long time," even if he doesn't plan on playing.

  • "Well, listen, if he wants to resume his career in the NFL, then obviously it's gonna take a team to make that decision. But I welcome that, support a club making that decision and encourage them to do that," Goodell said.
  • "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. ... I hope we're at a point now where everybody's committed to making long-term, sustainable change."

Reality check: Given the NFL's past treatment of Kaepernick — not to mention Goodell saying in December that the league had "moved on" from him — these words should be taken with a grain of salt.

  • Of course, it's a smaller grain of salt than it would have been as recently as May. On the heels of NFL players successfully pressuring the league to admit they were "wrong" in silencing peaceful protests, it's clear America's social climate is dramatically different now than it was when Kaepernick first kneeled in 2016.

The big picture: Voter support for the Black Lives Matter movement has increased in the last two weeks almost as much as it had in two years, per the New York Times. And take a look at these numbers in regards to Nike's now-famous Kaepernick ad:

  • In 2018, after Nike first ran the ad, the Harris Poll surveyed 2,200 American adults and found that 17% had a negative perception of Nike and that 21% said they would either boycott or not buy Nike products.
  • Last week, Harris asked the same questions, and found that those numbers had dropped to 9% and 14%, respectively.

The bottom line: Four years ago, the NFL made Kaepernick disappear by not picking a side. It didn't want to suspend him, angering his supporters, but it didn't want to keep him around, either, because he was controversial, "and, therefore, bad for business," former NFL EVP Joe Lockhart wrote two weeks ago.

  • Now that the NFL, along with virtually every company in America, feels it's prudent to pick a side — the one that the majority of the country has picked — bringing Kaepernick back into the fold not only feels possible but probable.

Go deeper: The 72 hours that changed the NFL's stance on racism

Go deeper

Sep 10, 2020 - Podcasts

ESPN's Mina Kimes on the NFL's new reality

The NFL season kicks off tonight in Kansas City, but a lot has changed since the Chiefs hoisted their trophy in February including new economics, experiences and politics.

Axios Re:Cap digs in with ESPN football analyst Mina Kimes.

Updated 13 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."