(Reuters) - Colin Kaepernick, who popularized the controversial gesture of kneeling during the U.S. national anthem, will likely be invited to a meeting with the NFL to discuss social issues and protests, the league said on Wednesday.
NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart told a conference call that a meeting between the league, the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) and players will be held early next week and that he expected the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback to be invited.
“He has been in discussion with the players coalition. I expect he will be invited to this meeting,” Lockhart said of Kaepernick, who began kneeling last year as a way to protest against racial injustice in the United States.
“We look forward to him joining the conversation with the NFLPA, the league and players coalition but I don’t have any confirmation that he is planning to attend.”
The players coalition, which is a group led by NFL players, invites players to the events.
Former San Francisco 49er quarterback Kaepernick, 29, has been unemployed this season despite injuries at other teams that have created job openings. Some experts attribute his political activism as the key reason teams are wary of signing him.
He opted out of his contract with the 49ers in the offseason but has said his agent reached out to all 32 teams to make sure they were aware of his interest in playing this season.
His political stance has inspired many NFL players to kneel in protest during renditions of the national anthem, most notably last month after U.S. President Donald Trump said kneeling players should be fired for disrespecting the country.
The NFL weighed the fervor of players protesting about racism against Trump’s anger during a regularly scheduled autumn meeting in New York City last week that was attended by team owners, players and their union’s leaders.
At that meeting the NFL did not seek commitments from its players to stop kneeling during pre-game renditions of the national anthem but rather focused on helping them in their political activism and said they would meet again soon.
Kaepernick was invited to last week’s gathering in New York by the players coalition but has not yet attended any of the recent meetings with the league.
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris