Commissioner Roger Goodell recently joined Emmanuel Acho’s Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man digital series for an interview that touched on, among other things, Colin Kaepernick and player protests during the national anthem. But was the uncomfortable conversation sufficiently uncomfortable?
A reporter whose paycheck is signed by Goodell thinks it wasn’t.
Jim Trotter, casting aside any of the concerns based on his employment by the NFL in order to say what he believes regarding the NFL’s handling of social justice and related issues, offered a pointed critique of the Goodell interview during Monday night’s edition of Total Access on NFL Network.
“In listening to that interview, I can say at best, I thought it tried to soften history,” Trotter told MJ Acosta. “And at worst, it tried to rewrite history. Look, the Commissioner said he wishes he had known earlier or back then what was going on in communities of color. The reality is for two years players demonstrated and tried to tell the Commissioner and the owners what was going on in communities of color, and yet the owners still went out and voted to change the anthem policy and to keep players from demonstrating on the field during The Star-Spangled Banner. So they can’t say they didn’t know what was going on. They chose not to hear what was going on.”
Acosta then asked Trotter what questions still need to be answered in the push for social justice.
“If we’re talking about uncomfortable conversations with a black man, then let’s make it uncomfortable,” Trotter said. “So if I’m Emmanuel Acho, one of the things I want to know from the Commissioner is this: Your father stood on principle. He stood up to the President when we talk about the Vietnam War. Was there any point there during this discussion early on when Colin Kaepernick took a knee where the Commissioner thought about standing up to the President, standing up on principle, about being on the right side of history. Then let’s talk about two years after Colin first took a knee and the owners unanimously voted to change the anthem policy with one abstention. Was there ever a discussion or consideration that some might take that to mean that the owners valued their pocketbooks more than they valued a Black life?
“Also, when Roger was elected Commissioner in 2006, a week later he went out and he met with Dr. Harry Edwards, the respected sociologist, and they talked about the state of the league. And at that point, Dr. Edwards told him the demographics of the league are changing. More Black players are coming in. They are going to become the face of the league, and they are not going to leave behind their communities. My question then would be, ‘You had a decade to prepare, why was the league not ready for Colin Kaepernick taking a knee and what all that entailed?’ And lastly, Dr. Edwards also told him after Colin took a knee, ‘Do not make him a martyr.’ And yet the owners chose to make him a martyr. So from my standpoint, if we’re having uncomfortable conversations, those are questions I would want to ask the Commissioner.
“Now, going forward, what do I want to know? I want to know what the change is going to be. What actionable plan is there? Because reportedly, nine of the top 16 sports donors to President Trump’s inauguration or his re-election campaign were NFL owners. And they pay that kind of money for access and for influence. And so if you are committed to social change, then use that access, use that influence for real systemic change. For legislative change. One positive, we know the league is talking about voter registration. Well, stand up, fight for John Lewis’ voter rights law, you know, to expand it. Stand out front with your players, I would say that’s next. No more donations, no more boilerplate statements. Be about the action of making real change.”
Frankly, it sounds like the Commissioner should perhaps be sitting down not with his colleague at the NFL to have a frank and candid followup conversation. And that should be fairly easy to arrange. After all, the Commissioner sent an email to all NFL employees on Monday that encouraged them to watch and “send me any thoughts you may have.”
Then again, Trotter need not send the email. He bravely made his thoughts publicly known on the network the organization run by Roger Goodell owns and operates. Unless and until the Commissioner addresses Trotter’s concerns publicly, perhaps by sitting for an interview with him, it’s impossible to declare the Uncomfortable Conversation truly uncomfortable or actually over.
Was Roger Goodell’s “uncomfortable conversation” sufficiently uncomfortable? originally appeared on Pro Football Talk