NFL stars including Patrick Mahomes and Odell Beckham Jr have called on the league to “condemn racism and the systemic oppression of black people”.
Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the US national anthem in 2016 and has not played in the league since becoming a free agent in 2017.
Many athletes have shown support for Kaepernick following global protests held after the death of George Floyd, saying in a video: “What will it take? For one of us to be murdered by police brutality?”
It comes in the wake of the death of Floyd, an unarmed black man, while being restrained by a white police officer in Minneapolis on 25 May.
In the video, the players list black men and women who have also been killed.
It adds: “So, on behalf of the National Football League this is what we, the players, would like to hear you state: ‘We the National Football League condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. We the National Football League admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting. We the National Football League believe Black Lives Matter.”
The NFL posted its own statement on Thursday.
In a statement on social media, it said: “This is a time of self-reflection for all – the NFL is no exception. We stand with the black community because Black Lives Matter.”
On Thursday, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees posted a statement asking for forgiveness after he was criticised for saying kneeling protests would be “disrespecting the flag”.
“I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country,” said Brees in an apology on Instagram.