Detroit Lions players and Lions head coach Matt Patricia (L) listen to a speaker before taking part in a peace march across the MacArthur Bridge to rally against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. June 5, 2020. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook
NEW YORK (Reuters) – National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league made mistakes in not listening to players, in a video on Friday denouncing racism in the United States amid widespread protests over police brutality against 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,” said Goodell. “We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter.”
The NFL has been locked in an ongoing debate with players over kneeling protests during the national anthem before the start of games, a practice popularized by quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016 to protest racial injustice and police brutality.
Kaepernick filed a grievance against the league in 2017, claiming collusion as no teams signed him after he parted ways with the San Francisco 49ers. The NFL and Kaepernick settled in 2019.
“Protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff,” said Goodell. “I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve.”
The NFL sent the video out just hours after U.S. President Donald Trump renewed his call for an end to kneeling protests during the national anthem.
Reporting By Amy Tennery; Editing by Sandra Maler and Cynthia Osterman