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National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement Friday saying the league was “wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier,” after players urged the organization to “admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting.”
Goodell’s statement came after nearly two weeks of nationwide protests over police brutality sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody, and after years of controversy over NFL players kneeling at games during the national anthem beginning with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016.
In a video statement posted to Twitter, Goodell said:
It has been a difficult time in 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. 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.
Goodell’s address came the day after a group of black NFL players released a video wherein they called out their league, saying, “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.”
— NFL (@NFL) June 5, 2020
Earlier in the week, New Orleans Saint quarterback Drew Brees issued an apology after he criticized the kneeling protests by saying he would “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America.”
In reaction, President Donald Trump tweeted, “I am a big fan of Drew Brees. I think he’s truly one of the greatest quarterbacks, but he should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag. OLD GLORY is to be revered, cherished, and flown high.”
He added, “We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart. There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag – NO KNEELING!”
…We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart. There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag – NO KNEELING!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2020