NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the league made mistakes in not listening to players in a video on Friday denouncing racism in the United States amid widespread protests over police brutality against 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,” said Goodell. “We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter.”
Goodell, who offered his condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and all families who have endured police brutality, said he would be in touch with individual players who had voiced concerns about the league.
No mention was made of Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback whose decision to kneel during the national anthem during a preseason game in August 2016 kick-started the protest movement.
The commissioner’s message came following a week and a half of nationwide protests sparked by the killing of Minneapolis man George Floyd by four police officers.
On Thursday, more than a dozen of the NFL’s biggest stars, including Patrick Mahomes, Saquon Barkley, Michael Thomas, Odell Beckham Jr and Deshaun Watson, delivered a passionate message on racial inequality which was retweeted by the league’s official Twitter account on Friday only moments before Goodell’s.
Thomas, the New Orleans Saints wide receiver who has led the league in receptions the past two seasons, opens the video with the statement: “It’s been 10 days since George Floyd was brutally murdered.” The players then take turns asking the question, “What if I was George Floyd?”
The players then name several of the black men and women who have recently been killed, including Floyd, Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Eric Garner.
“I AM George Floyd,” Hopkins says.
Adams follows with: “I AM Breonna Taylor.”
The video closes with the players insisting they “will not be silenced.” They also demand the NFL state that it condemns “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.”