NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement on behalf of the league on Friday acknowledging “we were wrong” in handling the issue of player protest.
Goodell’s message arrives after 10 days of protests and civil unrest in cities nationwide in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and a call from prominent black NFL players to make a statement.
“We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people,” Goodell said. “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.”
Stark reversal from NFL
The stance is a stark contrast to the NFL’s response to player protests addressing police brutality and systematic oppression of black Americans. Colin Kaepernick set the tone for those protests that involved kneeling during the national anthem.
Kaepernick hasn’t played since 2016 as political pressure led by President Donald Trump condemned those protests, shifting the subject from black oppression and police brutality to a false narrative concerning the military and patriotism. The NFL has threatened in the past to impose fines on players who kneel and teams that permit kneeling.
Goodell echoes call from black NFL players
Goodell’s statement arrives a day after several prominent black NFL players released a video addressing Floyd and other victims of police brutality while calling upon the NFL to say the words that Goodell spoke in Friday’s video.
The NFL retweeted that player video moments before releasing Goodell’s statement.
The statement also arrives after widespread rebuke of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees for his statement on Wednesday implying that those who protest by kneeling are unpatriotic. Brees has since issued two formal apologies for his statement.