WASHINGTON - Roger Goodell, the National Football League (NFL)
commissioner, on Friday said that the league was wrong in not
actively encouraging peaceful protests against racial injustice.
The video statement by Goodell is an astounding backtrack for the
NFL, which saw national controversy over a kneeling protest in 2016
led by then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
The killing of George Floyd last week has sparked a national protest
movement and renewed scrutiny of the NFL and the league's
relationship with its predominately black players.
"We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not
listening to NFL players earlier, and encourage all to speak out an
peacefully protest," Goodell said. "We the National Football League
believe black lives matter."
"Without black players there would be no National Football League,"
he said, without mentioning Kaepernick by name.
The action taken by the 32-year-old, who led the San Francisco 49ers
to the 2013 Super Bowl, came at a personal cost.
He did not renew his contract with the club when it expired in early
2017. Since then, he has not played an NFL game despite being widely
regarded as a high-quality quarterback.
US President Donald Trump, who has long been vocal on his opposition
to Kaepernick's actions and to kneeling protests in sports, meanwhile
doubled down on his stance.
Trump on Friday tweeted criticism of New Orleans Saints quarterback
Drew Brees for publicly apologizing over comments he made about
Brees sparked fierce criticism from teammates and several leading US
athletes, including NBA superstar LeBron James, when he told Yahoo
news portal he would "never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag
of the United States of America or our country."
In the apology on Instagram, he said his comments were "insensitive
and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now
as a country."
Trump wrote on Twitter that Brees "should not have taken back his
original stance on honoring our magnificent American flag."
"We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute,
or a hand on heart. There are other things you can protest, but not
our Great American Flag - NO KNEELING!"
In a later post alongside an image with the words "To President
Trump," Brees wrote on Instagram that "this is not an issue about the
"We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the
real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police
brutality, and judicial & prison reform," he wrote.
"We as a white community need to listen and learn from the pain and
suffering of our black communities," he added.