NFL players are asking their league to stand with them with more than just lip service. On Thursday, football stars like Odell Beckham Jr., Patrick Mahomes, Tyrann Mathieu, Ezekiel Elliott, Saquan Barkley, and more (virtually) stood together to ask the National Football League executives to acknowledge how they've failed Black players in the past and state Black Lives Matter. They want more than social media statements, they want action and commitment to the cause.
"We will not be silenced."
"How many times do we need to ask you to listen to your players? What will it take? For one of us to be murdered by police brutality? What if I was George Floyd?" the players ask the league in the video. "I am George Floyd. I am Breonna Taylor. I am Ahmaud Arbery. I am Eric Garner. I am Laquan McDonald. I am Tamir Rice. I am Trayvon Martin. I am Walter Scott. I am Michael Brown Jr. I am Samuel DuBose. I am Frank Smart. I am Phillip White. I am Jordan Baker. We will not be silenced. We assert our right to peacefully protest. It shouldn't take this long to admit."
They continue with the exact language they want to hear. "So, on behalf of the National Football League, this is what we, the players, would like to hear you state: 'We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic 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.'"
Although the players do not call out league commissioner Roger Goodell directly, it's clear that change must happen. The fight against police brutality and racial injustice has been felt in the NFL, and was magnified when Colin Kaepernick first took a knee in 2016. While he was ostracized by the league then, the players are demanding their voices — and those same pleas that Kaepernick had in 2016 — be heard now. Watch the message above, and find a list of organizations to donate to in support of racial justice here.
Just one day after the NFL players shared their message, it appeared that Goodell took note. Following the video, the commissioner issued his own statement on Friday condemning racial injustice in a way that he's never publicly done before. After offering his condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and those who have endured police brutality, he acknowledged the statements from the players.
"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. "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. 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."
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