The statement included the words: “We were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.” And it might be the most powerful sentence ever spoken by an NFL commissioner.
On Friday, in response to a viral video put out by the New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore and other players across the league, commissioner Roger Goodell addressed his and the NFL’s commitment to condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people.
Goodell admitted the NFL was wrong to try to silence Colin Kaepernick (though he did not mention the blackballed quarterback by name) and other players who tried to peacefully protest police brutality and other injustices.
Here’s a look at the video response:
We, the NFL, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of Black People. 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. #InspireChange pic.twitter.com/ENWQP8A0sv
— NFL (@NFL) June 5, 2020
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Drew Brees’ Comments & Apology
Amid the obvious racial turmoil in the United States, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees seemed to inadvertently stoke the fire with his own insensitive remarks.
After seemingly dismissing the Black Lives Matter protests and shifting the focus to the kneeling that he incorrectly deemed to be a disrespect to the American flag and the Armed Forces, Brees received massive backlash from people around the NFL, his teammates, and fans.
Brees attempted to apologize with this Instagram post and video, but the aforementioned video from NFL players was set into motion.
View this post on Instagram
I would like to apologize to my friends, teammates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, NFL community and anyone I hurt with my comments yesterday. In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused. In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country. They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy. Instead, those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character. This is where I stand: I stand with the black community in the fight against systemic racial injustice and police brutality and support the creation of real policy change that will make a difference. I condemn the years of oppression that have taken place throughout our black communities and still exists today. I acknowledge that we as Americans, including myself, have not done enough to fight for that equality or to truly understand the struggles and plight of the black community. I recognize that I am part of the solution and can be a leader for the black community in this movement. I will never know what it’s like to be a black man or raise black children in America but I will work every day to put myself in those shoes and fight for what is right. I have ALWAYS been an ally, never an enemy. I am sick about the way my comments were perceived yesterday, but I take full responsibility and accountability. I recognize that I should do less talking and more listening…and when the black community is talking about their pain, we all need to listen. For that, I am very sorry and I ask your forgiveness.
Evaluating Impact of Goodell’s Message
Some will doubt the sincerity of Goodell’s message and the NFL owners’ commitment to addressing this issue. However, it could be argued that their sincerity is irrelevant. These statements, the financial investments from major organizations, and the shift in narrative associated with African Americans in this country can play a role in establishing a changed future.
This could be a future that represents equality for our children who are being raised in what could be a more hope-filled country.
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