Jun 15, 2020
Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the National Football League (NFL), put out a statement condemning “racism and the systematic oppression of black people”. He said, “black lives matter”. And he said that the NFL was “wrong for not listening to NFL players and encouraging all players to speak out and peacefully protest”.
This all came from the head of the sports league that has, in the past, tried to silence black NFL players who have protested against racial injustice.
In 2016, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick was one of the first players to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem. Kaepernick spoke out against racism, as did other players like Eric Reid. In retaliation, the NFL owners blackballed Kaepernick. No one would hire Kaepernick, who was one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. Even though Kaepernick and Reid reached a settlement of a lawsuit against the NFL, Kaepernick still hasn’t been offered a job by any team.
In 2017, many other NFL players were protesting racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem. After these players were attacked by Donald Trump (who said the “son of a bitches” should be fired) and were criticized by some racist white fans and the media, the NFL tried to enact a policy requiring players to stand for the anthem.
But now this same league commissioner, speaking for the same league owners, is speaking out against racism and supporting players protesting. What changed?
Maybe it is the fact that hundreds of thousands of people across the country are taking to the streets to protest the murder of George Floyd. And maybe it is not a coincidence that Goodell’s statement came one day after many star NFL players, including Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, put out a video demanding that the NFL condemn racism, say that “black lives matter” and that the league admit it was wrong for trying to silence NFL players. Goodell’s statement matched almost word-for-word what the players were demanding in their video.
Maybe the league commissioner and league owners realized that without the NFL players, 70% of whom are black, there is no NFL, there is no multi-billion-dollar TV contract, and there is no money going into the pockets of the team owners.