NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says the league was wrong to discourage players from peacefully protesting, but doesn't name Colin Kaepernick in apology
- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell admitted the league was wrong to discourage players from peacefully protesting in a video posted on Friday.
- "We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people," Goodell said. "We the National Football League admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier, and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest."
- Goodell was criticized by some for the words he didn't say, specifically, for not including an apology to Colin Kaepernick in his statement.
- Kaepernick's protests against police brutality have once again become a topic of discussion amongst the league and the world as protests and demonstrations take place across the country demanding justice after the death of George Floyd.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell offered a mea culpa on the league's previous stance against player protest in a statement on Friday.
In a video released by the league on Friday afternoon, Goodell admitted the league was wrong to discourage players from taking part in peaceful protests, and attempted to show the league was ready to listen and move forward towards a better future. The message was a response to a video put together by several players across the league, which featured the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Michael Thomas, Odell Beckham Jr., and more stars demanding action from the NFL.
Goodell began his statement by offering condolences to the families of some of the African Americans who had died unjustly in recent months, sparking protests against police brutality across the country.
"It has been a difficult time for our country. In particular, black people in our country," Goodell said. "First, my condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Aubery, and all the families who have endured police brutality."
Goodell then went on to admit, in clear terms, that the league had been wrong to attempt to silence those that chose to protest:
"We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. We the National Football League admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier, 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 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."
You can watch a video of Goodell's statement below.
—NFL (@NFL) June 5, 2020
Goodell's statement is a jarring reversal given the how far the league was willing to go in previous years in hopes of quelling the ongoing protests against police brutality and inequality in the justice system that came to the forefront of the sports world when Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the national anthem in the 2016 season.
During the 2017 season, President Trump had harshly criticized the league for allowing players to protest during the anthem, and implored owners to "Get that son of a b---- off the field right now, out. He's fired. He's fired!" with regard to players that took a knee. During the following offseason, long after Kaepernick had played his last NFL snap, the league went as far as to briefly embrace a rule that would force players to stand for the anthem, or remain in the locker room while the anthem played. The half-measure pleased no one and was thrown aside before it was ever implemented.
Two years later, the NFL is accepting that Kaepernick was right, and they were wrong. While Goodell's statement can be seen as a step forward for the league, some critics rightfully pointed out that Kaepernick's name was glaringly absent from Goodell's speech, while others wondered why the NFL chose to bury their statement it what amounted to a Friday news dump.
—Lindsey Adler (@lindseyadler) June 5, 2020
—Micah Peters (@micahpeters_) June 5, 2020
—Tyler R. Tynes (@TylerRickyTynes) June 5, 2020
—Barry Petchesky (@barry) June 5, 2020
—emily (@emilylillua) June 5, 2020
But even with those deserved critiques, there was no denying that the statement represented a clear shift in the NFL's thinking with regard to both player expression and their own brand positioning.
—Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) June 5, 2020
—Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) June 5, 2020
—David Rider (@dmrider) June 5, 2020
Despite the fact that he hasn't played in the NFL since the 2016 season, Kaepernick's protests against police brutality have been re-examined by some in the past week as similar protests and demonstrations took place across the world demanding justice after the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police.
On Wednesday, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees brought backlash upon himself after he said he would "never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country." Since then, players from across the world had spoken out against Brees, arguing he had made the movement about himself and failed to address the issue at the heart of the protest, police brutality.
Brees apologized for his comments, but on Friday, Trump attempted to double-down on his original criticisms of the protests, telling Brees he should have stood his ground. "We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart," the president tweeted. "There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag - NO KNEELING!"
Just two later, the NFL would release their statement, making it clear that the league planned to embrace peaceful protest from its players moving forward.
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