NFL players taking a knee during the National Anthem and raising of the American flag has never got as much attention — and shifts in opinion — as it has in the past few days. It started out when New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees said in a June 3 interview, “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America” by kneeling. Then he had a had a complete change of heart. After an initial apology for his statement, Drew explained how he now realizes that taking a knee was never about the flag, but about racial injustice and peaceful protesting. He made a powerful statement in a clap back towards President Donald Trump, who had cheered on his initial anti-kneeling stance and was upset when Drew changed his mind. It happened to come on the same day that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell finally acknowledged that after four years, “We, the NFL, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest,” including taking a knee.
While Trump isn’t budging on his stance about kneeling during the National Anthem, the NFL has finally got on the right side of history. The league seems to have seen the light after a number of it’s top black players put together a video narrating how they too could be George Floyd. He’s the 46-year-old black man who died on May 25 after a white Minneapolis Police officer kneeled on the handcuffed victim’s neck for nearly nine minutes, while he pleaded that he couldn’t breathe. Floyd’s horrifying death sparked hundreds of protests nationwide in support of Black Lives Matter, and calling out police brutality against African-Americans.
A group of young, elite black NFL stars taped a video released on June 4 via their respective social media pages asking, “What if I was George Floyd?” The likes of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, 24, who is the reigning Super Bowl Champ and game MVP; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, 24, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, 24, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, 28, and New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, 23, all participated in the video, which you can watch above.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas — who had called out his teammate Drew’s initial no-kneeling stance as him not knowing better — started off the video by saying, “It’s been 10 days since George Floyd was brutally murdered.” Then others appeared and asked, “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?” DeAndre then said to the camera, “I am George Floyd,” as other players named unarmed black victims killed by police, including “I am Breonna Taylor,” and “I am Eric Garner.”
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
The message seemed to work, as the NFL announced they would now “listen to” their players as they had asked. Goodell released a video late in the afternoon on June 5, stating “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.”
However, Goodell failed to apologize to Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who started the kneeling protests four years ago in the 2016 season and has since been without a team. Colin settled a lawsuit against the NFL in 2019 for colluding to keep him out of the league. Colin’s lawyers argued he had been blacklisted for his taking a knee against police brutality and injustice during the National Anthem, which had generated so much controversy. Hopefully now that the NFL is finally okay with taking a knee in peaceful protests, Colin will get a chance to play in the NFL again.