As the national conversation on social injustice grows louder, the league where Colin Kaepernick started the discussion on the sidelines four years earlier, and its commissioner Roger Goodell finally admitted to keeping the former 49ers quarterback out of the game.
Roger Goodell’s former employee admits Colin Kaepernick treated unfairly
Joe Lockhart served under Roger Goodell as the NFL’s executive vice president in charge of communications and government affairs from 2016-18. Lockhart had a behind-the-scenes view of what played out in the weeks and months following the Colin Kaepernick kneeling protest and detailed what he saw in a column for CNN last week.
“When I was an executive in the National Football League a few years ago, our organization was consumed by the case of Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback whose silent kneeling protest against police brutality arguably led him to lose his NFL career and not be re-signed by any club. No teams wanted to sign a player—even one as talented as Kaepernick—whom they saw as controversial, and, therefore, bad for business.”
According to Lockhart, one team executive projected it would lose 20 percent of their season ticket holders if they signed him. This admission that Kaepernick’s unemployment was because it would directly affect a team’s bottom line, provides a clear indication of where the priorities lie in the NFL, and they’re not on the side of social justice.
NFL players produce coordinate video with emotional message
As demonstrations and protests spread across the nation, a number of well-known NFL players coordinated together and posted the same video across their different social media platforms calling on the league and commissioner Roger Goodell to “condemn racism and a systemic oppression of black people … admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting … believe black lives matter.”
Among those participating included Saquon Barkley, Odell Beckham, Ezekiel Elliott, DeAndre Hopkins, Eric Kendricks, Jarvis Landry, Marshon Lattimore, Patrick Mahomes, Tyrann Mathieu, Patrick Peterson, Sterling Shepard, Michael Thomas, Deshaun Watson, Chase Young, and others.
“It’s been 10 days since George Floyd was brutally murdered,” New Orleans Saints Thomas opens the video.
“How many times do we need to ask you to listen to your players?” Mathieu questions.
“What will it take?” Hopkins asks.
“For one of us to be murdered by police brutality?” Landry finishes the line of questioning.
The video then has all the players asking what if they were George Floyd, then stating they are George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless other unarmed black people killed at the hands of police. As the minute and a half video concludes, the players provide a list of things they want to hear from the NFL.
“We will not be silenced. We assert our right to peacefully protest. It shouldn’t take this long to admit. 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 a 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.'”
Roger Goodell’s apology is an admission of guilt
Less than 24 hours after the players posted their video, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell posted a statement and video on Twitter essentially repeating verbatim the statement requested by players.
“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.”
Roger Goodell’s admission confirms what Joe Lockhart said last week and what most sports fans who wanted to know the truth have seen since Kaepernick kneeled and was blackballed by the NFL. Money is more important than dealing with social injustice issues.
At this point, do the players honestly believe Roger Goddell’s statements, and more importantly, think he’s going to do anything about it? This is the same league where the Rooney Rule has been in place since 2003 and has failed miserably. Time will tell whether the NFL cares about its players, which are 70 percent African-American. Until the NFL implements actionable measures that make a discernible difference, Goodell’s words are just that, words, and nothing more.