NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says he wishes the league had listened to Colin Kaepernick earlier. 

Roger Goodell, Colin KaepernickEzra Shaw / Getty Images

"Well the first thing I'd say is I wish we had listened earlier, Kap, to what you were kneeling about and what you were trying to bring attention to," the commissioner said. "We had invited him in several times to have the conversation, to have the dialogue. I wish we had the benefit of that. We never did. We would've benefited from it, absolutely."

Kaepernick famously protested during the National Anthem in 2016 by taking a knee. In the time since, he has remained absent from any NFL rosters. 

Goodell's admission echos previous statements from the commissioner regarding National Anthem protests: "We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier," Goodell said in a statement from June. "And encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe Black Lives Matter.

"I personally protest with you and want to be a part of the much-needed change in this country. Without black players, there would be no National Football League, And the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality, and oppression of black players, coaches, fans, and staff. We are listening, I am listening, and I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve and go forward for a better and more united NFL family."

The NFL season is set to return on September 10, and many players plan on kneeling during the National Anthem.