NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says the league was wrong for not listening to players and is encouraging them to speak out and peacefully protest amid demonstrations across the U.S. over systemic racism in response to the death of George Floyd.
In a video posted to social media Friday, the NFL appears to be trying to make amends for the league’s handling of kneeling protests during the national anthem, led by Colin Kaepernick.
“We the National Football League condemn racism and the systematic oppression of 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. We the National Football League believe Black lives matter,” Goodell said in the video.
The league also shared a video put out Thursday night in which more than 15 NFL stars said they were asserting their right to peacefully protest and asked the NFL to “admit wrong” in silencing its players.
The league appeared to be responding to its players’ request with Friday’s video.
“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,” Goodell said.
“We are listening, I am listening and I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve and go forward for a better and more united NFL family.”
Kaepernick sparked a wave of demonstrations across the league in 2016 after he kneeled during the national anthem to call attention to police brutality and racial inequality. Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since that season and settled a collusion case with the league last year, saying he was blacklisted because of the protests.
The NFL initially released a statement five days after Floyd’s death that did not mention player protests or racism.