By Sabrina Fani
The worldwide unrest and plea for racial justice following the death of George Floyd has prompted several organizations to reevaluate past actions. Amongst them, the National Football League took accountability for ignoring its players who have protested police violence and racial inequality this past Friday. In a short video statement posted to the League’s Twitter account, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell apologized to players for “not listening” to their concerns surrounding racism.
“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. I personally protest with you and want to be part of the much-needed change in this country.”
The video came in response to several of the League’s players calling on the NFL to listen to their concerns. In a video posted to the NFL’s Twitter page, a group of NFL players, including Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and Tyrann Mathieu, questioned “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?”
The NFL’s apology was not received without criticism. Notably, the apology dances around directly addressing Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who sparked a nationwide movement in 2016 when he began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality. At the time, his actions were met with both praise and criticism. On one hand, he was praised for his bravery. On the other, he was criticized for allegedly disrespecting the United States and the armed forces of the country.
As a result of events following his controversial actions, he opted out of his contract with the 49ers and has been a free agent since 2017. According to reports, the 49ers had told Kaepernick that he would be released by the franchise. Since then, his chances of returning to the NFL have been far from promising as many teams saw him as too controversial, and therefore, bad for business.
Despite his departure from the NFL, Kaepernick “has remained a voice of protest” and a “reflection of the social consciences of his generation of athletes.” The recent protests in light of George Floyd’s death have put Kaepernick back into the spotlight as a leading figure for racial equality and the end of police brutality.
Critics of the NFL’s apology saw Goodell’s video as nothing more than a self-interested publicity stunt. Others claimed they would only accept the apology once Kaepernick is signed back into the League. Ultimately, the apology falls flat until followed by action. Many have called for such action to be in the form of the League acknowledging Colin Kaepernick’s name and directly addressing the NFL’s mistreatment of the kneeling controversy. Many view Kaepernick as part of the solution and demand his re-entry into the League “to help him regain what he lost by standing up for what he believed in.”
Sabrina Fani is a second year student at Loyola Law School concentrating in Business and Entertainment Law.