National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted Friday that the league should have listened more closely in the past to players who complained about racism.
Goodell issued an Instagram video today on behalf of the NFL after several star players issued their own video, Stronger Together, on Thursday, asking for the league to condemn racism and support its black players.
The league responded a day later.
“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 said. “It has been a difficult time for our country. In particular, black people in our country. First, my condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and all the families who have endured police brutality.”
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The video caption stated, “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”
The video by NFL stars featured Davante Adams, Jamal Adams, Saquon Barkley, Anthony Barr, Odell Beckham Jr., Ezekiel Elliott, Stephon Gilmore, DeAndre Hopkins, Eric Kendricks, Jarvis Landry, Marshon Lattimore, Patrick Mahomes, Tyrann Mathieu, Patrick Peterson, Sterling Shepard, Michael Thomas, Deshaun Watson and Chase Young.
In their video, the players spoke in unison, saying: “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 systemic 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 has been embroiled in a controversy over racial and social justice since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the National Anthem in 2016. Kaepernick said he was doing it to protest against racism and police brutality.
He was soon followed by several teammates, and the protest spread throughout the league, with players opting to kneel, raise a fist, link arms or stay in the locker room while the anthem was played. Some fans reacted angrily, sponsors pulled ads, and the league’s television ratings went down, with the NFL eventually declining to include the anthem in its broadcasts.
Kaepernick bore the brunt of the backlash. He became a free agent following the 2016 season by opting out of his contract’s final year. However, no team signed him, and Kaepernick eventually sued over collusion to keep him out of the league. He reached a settled in 2019.
The players video is below.