This statement was seen as a snub to Donald Trump, who called the players who kneel during the national anthem “sons of bitches”. Trump responded on Sunday evening.
“Could it even be remotely possible that in Roger Goodell’s rather interesting declaration of peace and reconciliation, he insisted that it would now be OK for the players to kneel, or not to stand, for the national anthem, what disrespects our country – our flag? Wrote the president.
Former San Francisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick began kneeling for the national anthem in 2016 to protest police brutality and racism in the United States. Other players quickly joined him. At the time, the league said it did not tolerate protests and Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since he left the San Francisco 49ers at the end of the 2016 season.
The NFL released its statement on Friday supporting peaceful protests after a request from several of the most prominent black players in the league, including Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes.
Shortly after Goodell released the NFL statement. “We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of blacks,” said Goodell. “We the National Football League admit that we were wrong not to listen to NFL players earlier and encourage all players to speak out and protest peacefully. We, the National Football League, believe that the lives of black people are important.
Significantly, the NFL did not mention kneeling during the Anthem or Kaepernick in the statement. Much of the NFL fan base is conservative and both the league and Trump know that many of them see kneeling during the anthem as disrespect for the army and the flag.
It was not the first time last week that Trump, who follows Joe Biden in the polls for the November presidential election, called a prominent NFL figure on the subject of protests. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees apologized for the comments he made Friday that players kneeling during the national anthem are unpatriotic.
Trump later targeted Brees, saying on Twitter, “I’m a big fan of Drew Brees. I think he is truly one of the tallest quarterbacks, but he should not have returned to his original position in honor of our magnificent American flag. OLD GLORY must be revered, cherished, and flown high… We should be standing tall and tall, ideally with a bow, or a hand on our hearts. There are other things you can protest, but not our big American flag – NO KNEELING!
Brees then addressed the president directly in an Instagram post, saying he stood by his apologies. “We can no longer use the flag to divert people or distract them from the real problems facing our black communities,” he wrote.
“Through my ongoing conversations with friends, teammates and leaders of the black community, I realize that this is not a problem about the American flag. It never has been. We can no longer use the flag to distract or distract people from the real problems facing our black communities.
The new NFL season is set to start in September. Kaepernick and Eric Reid, the teammate who knelt beside him, are both without a team.