Some of the NFL’s biggest stars called on the NFL to join in on the fight against racism in a powerful video posted across social media Thursday night.
On Friday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell responded, saying: “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.”
Goodell also said that “I personally protest with you, and want to be part of the much-needed change in this country,” and in speaking for the league 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.”
As protests have sprung up across the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody May 25 in Minneapolis, many have assumed we will see kneeling during the national anthem this upcoming NFL season. Former San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick took a knee in the 2016 season during the anthem to protest police brutality and other social and racial injustices.
We, the NFL, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of Black People. We, the NFL, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the NFL, believe Black Lives Matter. #InspireChange pic.twitter.com/ENWQP8A0sv
— NFL (@NFL) June 5, 2020
President Donald Trump has been highly critical of this practice, saying it disrespects the flag and the country. He weighed in on Goodell’s statement late Sunday night, seemingly questioning it for giving players a blessing of sorts to protest during the anthem if they so choose.
Trump said on Twitter: “Could it be even remotely possible that in Roger Goodell’s rather interesting statement of peace and reconciliation, he was intimating that it would now be O.K. for the players to KNEEL, or not to stand, for the National Anthem, thereby disrespecting our Country & our Flag?”
On Friday, Trump said Drew Brees should not have apologized for a stance he took in an interview posted Wednesday where the New Orleans Saints QB said he would “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.”
Brees issued two subsequent apologies Thursday, and in a post addressed to Trump on Friday, Brees stuck by his apology and said through conversations he’s realized kneeling during the anthem was never “an issue about the American flag.”
While Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since the 2016 season, several players have continued to kneel or do some type of demonstration during the anthem before games. Kneeling became widespread during the 2017 season after Trump said players who took a knee during the anthem were a “son of a bitch.”