NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association president J.C. Tretter each issued statements on Saturday in response to the killing of George Floyd and the protests that have followed across the country.
Goodell’s statement addressed Floyd — an African American whose death in police custody Monday night in Minneapolis led to officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, being arrested Friday and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter — along with two African Americans who were victims of gun violence earlier this year, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
Fervent protests have emerged in dozens of cities across the nation this week, including several leading to riots in Minneapolis, where the city’s 3rd Precinct burned down on Thursday night.
“The NFL family is greatly saddened by the tragic events across our country,” Goodell said in a statement. “The protesters’ reactions to these incidents reflect the pain, anger and frustration that so many of us feel.
“Our deepest condolences go out to the family of Mr. George Floyd and to those who have lost loved ones, including the families of Ms. Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and Mr. Ahmaud Arbery, the cousin of Tracy Walker of the Detroit Lions.
“As current events dramatically underscore, there remains much more to do as a country and as a league. These tragedies inform the NFL’s commitment and our ongoing efforts. There remains an urgent need for action. We recognize the power of our platform in communities and as part of the fabric of American society. We embrace that responsibility and are committed to continuing the important work to address these systemic issues together with our players, clubs and partners.”
Houston Texans wideout Kenny Stills, who has been a vocal protestor of racial injustice during his NFL career, gave a pointed response to Goodell’s statement on Twitter, writing only, “Save the bull——“
Tretter, a center for the Cleveland Browns who was named NFLPA president earlier this year, posted a statement on Twitter.
“Like many of you processing the news of George Floyd’s murder, I’ve felt a range of emotions from disbelief to anger,” Tretter wrote. “Unfortunately, this is not just about George Floyd’s senseless and avoidable death. The issue of changing systemic racism and prejudice in our country is long overdue.
“As a white man, I will never fully understand the daily experiences and feats that people of color in this country live with. Sports have provided me an opportunity to form friendships with people from different backgrounds, races, religions, and beliefs. These friendships have helped broaden and shape my understanding of others’ perspectives and struggles.
“Some may feel hesitant to speak out as they don’t know what to say or how to say it. Your individual fear of saying the wrong thing is insignificant compared to the actual issues that need addressing. Racism is something that we all must take responsibility to end. As human beings, we need to identify and challenge prejudice, rather than deny it. Silence in the face of injustice only works to protect and perpetuate that injustice.
“People of color have long tried to communicate what racism in America feels like for them. We can all be better listeners, validators, and friends. Our work will never be finished until every American feels safe, free and accepted in our country.”
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith also sent a letter to players about Floyd’s death, saying, “it is impossible to not to take this personally. We should take this personally.”
He added, “It is also clear that this pain, while shared by so many, has a history of being bore more by some than others. It is as wrong to be willfully ignorant to this pain as it is to use this pain as cover for inflicting pain on others.”
Top players across the country, black and white, have spoken out in recent days on social media, including LeBron James, Colin Kaepernick, Joe Burrow and Trevor Lawrence.
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff posted on his Instagram story late Saturday, writing, “My heart hurts for our country. There needs to be change and it can only happen together. I’ll never pretend to understand the struggles that the Black community goes through daily in our country and never will know this struggle. It is my responsibility to educate myself and actively participate in advocating for the change our country desperately needs, in words and action.
“Love each other a little more than usual, come together, and continue to push for positive change in our country.”
Also on Saturday, former NFL executive Joe Lockhart wrote an opinion column for CNN stating that “now is the moment to sign Colin Kaepernick,” suggesting that the Minnesota Vikings should sign Kaepernick to a contract.
Now 32, Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since 2016, a season that began with him protesting racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem before games.
—Field Level Media