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President Donald Trump has volleyed his inevitable response to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for a statement pronouncing Black Lives Matter and admitting the league was “wrong” in its handling of player protests.
Late Sunday night, the president took to Twitter and questioned Goodell’s statement, specifically asking if it meant that the league would allow players to protest during the national anthem. Calling the practice “disrespecting” toward the U.S. and its flag in the tweet, the president has long been critical of the protests used by players to peacefully call out racial inequality and police brutality in America.
The president also felt the need to elaborate on the word “kneel,” spelled out in all caps, adding “not to stand.”
Could it be even remotely possible that in Roger Goodell’s rather interesting statement of peace and reconciliation, he was intimating that it would now be O.K. for the players to KNEEL, or not to stand, for the National Anthem, thereby disrespecting our Country & our Flag?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 8, 2020
Trump’s question had essentially been asked and answered in Goodell’s statement, in which the commissioner said the NFL would “encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.”
What Roger Goodell said about racism and player protests
Goodell released the statement on Friday:
“We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people,” Goodell said. “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. Without black players, there would be no National Football League. And the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff.”
Drew Brees’ comment sparked discourse over protests
Trump poked at the NFL last week as well, specifically in the direction of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees after his apology for calling protests during the anthem as disrespectful toward the American flag.
Trump said Brees should not have apologized, a statement to which Brees responded with a lengthy Instagram caption. In the post, Brees noted the protests have never been about the flag, calling such an accusation a distraction from the real issues faced by black communities.
Both Goodell’s statement and Brees’ apology are part of the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. NFL players and other athletes have been speaking out and joining protests across the country since Floyd’s killing, with many teams releasing their own statements condemning systemic racism.
Goodell’s admission that the NFL failed to listen to players like Colin Kaepernick was a direct response to a video posted by large group of NFL stars calling out the league’s failure to grapple with social issues. Just a day after the stars posted the video, Goodell was in his basement reading off each statement they demanded to hear.
The players seem on track to bring protests into the NFL season, which will undoubtedly draw even more responses from the president.
Trump has gleefully attacked protests during the national anthem in the past, despite the fact that the practice itself came from Kaepernick asking an ex-Green Beret for advice on a way to peacefully protest racial injustice.
Goodell’s response might have just been the result of a realization that the financial winds are blowing in the direction of social change, but it was still a significant step taken by a league that has long avoided political controversy. Trump’s response was a natural result of moving out of that stance, but the league might have simply accepted it would need to take some lumps from the White House in order to make its players feel heard.
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