The NFL was at the center of America’s culture wars back in 2016, when now-former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat and, eventually, knelt for the national anthem in an attempt to raise awareness of police brutality and systematic oppression against Black individuals. Despite the fact that Kaepernick spoke to former Green Beret and NFL long snapper Nate Boyer about how he could protest while still respecting those who served in the military, which led to him choosing to kneel over taking a seat, Kaepernick found himself at the center of a firestorm about how and when someone should protest.
Those efforts worked, and individuals in power who wanted to avoid having the uncomfortable conversation Kaepernick brought into the discourse were able to shift the narrative. Kaepernick opted out of his deal in March of 2017 to become a free agent, and has not appeared in the NFL since.
His efforts have reentered the discourse in recent days, though, following the nationwide protests in response to the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who was killed by a Minnesota police officer. This is in part because of the firestorm stirred up by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who gave off-base remarks on kneeling for the anthem, and this video by a handful of Black NFL players.
On Friday evening, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell joined the chorus of individuals speaking out, as the league posted a video in which Goodell invoked the phrase “Black Lives Matter” and noted that the league was “wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier, and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.”
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. #InspireChange pic.twitter.com/ENWQP8A0sv
— NFL (@NFL) June 5, 2020
As you noticed, while the video is an attempt to put the NFL on the right side of history, there is no mention of Kaepernick anywhere, just a vague allusion to the fact that the league failed to listen in the past. While this video is a start, the league still has a way to go to atone for the sin committed against Kaepernick, and a good way for that process to begin would be for the commissioner of the league, along with its 30 owners, to admit this and say his name.