NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted the league was wrong for not paying attention to players who protested system racism earlier and voiced support for Black Lives Matter. The video was shared just hours after several NFL players released the "Stronger Together" video, in which they called on the league to take a stronger stance against racism after the death of George Floyd on May 25. Racism has long been an issue with the NFL, highlighted by Colin Kaepernick's protests against police brutality in 2016.
"We, the NFL, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of Black People," the NFL said in a caption alongside Goodell's video. "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." Goodell read the same statement in the clip, before adding that he "personally" protests with the players and wants to be part of the "much-needed change" in the U.S.
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"Without black players, there would be no National Football League," Goodell said. "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." Goodell said he plans to personally reach out to players who have "raised their voices" to discuss how the NFL can be more "united" in the future.
On Thursday night, players Deshaun Watson, Michael Thomas, Patrick Mahomes, Odell Beckham Jr., Tyrann Mathieu, Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley and DeAndre Hopkins released an emotional video called "Stronger Together." They called on the league to speak out against racism and support black players. "How many times to we need you to ask you to listen to your players?" Mathieu asked.
The video ended with the players speaking in unison. "On behalf of the National Football League, this is what we the players would like to hear you state," they said together. "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."
During the 2016 season, Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality. At the end of that season, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback became a free agent and has not been offered an NFL contract since. Kaepernick accused NFL owners of keeping him out of the league because of his protests, which the NFL denied. Still, the NFL reached a settlement with Kaepernick and Eric Ried, who joined Kaepernick's protests, last year.
Following Floyd's death in Minneapolis on May 25, most NFL players have shown their support in demanding justice. The case also brought Kaepernick's protest to the forefront. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees apologized for saying he would "never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag" after Thomas criticized him.