NFL Commissioner Admits League Was Wrong for Silencing Players’ Protests, Now Apologize to Colin Kaepernick

Photos: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports/Todd Kirkland-AP

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement Friday meeting the requests of several Black NFL athletes by admitting that the league was previously wrong for silencing players’ protests.

The statement was in response to several Black players, including Patrick Mahomes II, Odell Beckham Jr., and Ezekiel Elliot, creating a video of requests for the league in response to the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others who’ve died from police brutality and systemic racism.

They asked for the NFL to boldly say they (1) condemn racism and the systematic oppression of Black people, (2) admit wrong in silencing their players from peacefully protesting, and (3) declare they believe Black lives matter.

The athletes’ requests also came after New Orleans Saints quarterback Dree Brees double-downed on his position against kneeling in protesting.

During a recent interview with Yahoo Finance’s Daniel Roberts, Brees reasserted that he didn’t want players kneeling again in protest of police brutality.

“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” said Brees.

Brees received tons of backlash for his comment. He’s issued a couple of lackluster apologies since, but they haven’t moved the needle in his favor.

In what seemed like good faith, Commissioner Goodell met the requests of the players and made all three statements on behalf of the league.

His video, however, like Brees, missed the mark seeing as it didn’t extend an apology to former quarterback Colin Kaepernick whose professional career was a casualty of the league’s previous stance.

During his last season with the San Francisco 49ers, Kaepernick repeatedly knelt during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racial inequality faced by Black Americans and other people of color.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” said Kaepernick to NFL Media in 2016. “To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” 

He continued: “This is not something that I am going to run by anybody. I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. … If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”

During Kaepernick’s protest, the league did everything they could to silence him from initially attempting to dilute his message to ultimately blackballing him.

Kaepernick has remained unsigned since 2017. The intensified ordeal led to Kaepernick filing a collusion grievance against the NFL in October 2017 which settled out of court in February 2019. 

In November 2019 they offered him a sham of a workout, but no opportunities arose from it.

If Commissioner Goodell is truly standing up for Black Lives, then he and the league need to address one of their recent sins and not only apologize to Kaepernick, but run him a job, expeditiously.

Because until then, the NFL is just. like several other businesses, offering words with no truth or actions behind them.

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Bryant Lydell

Bryant Lydell is creative, personable and quick-witted Howard and USC alum. He's the founder of The Top Tea, a songwriter, screenwriter and member of the casting team for Netflix's NAACP Image Award-winning hip-hop competition series Rhythm + Flow.

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