National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell has reiterated his and the league’s commitment and desire to do all they can in the battle against social injustice. The league, along with the NFL Players’ Association, has also announced new initiatives designed to help with the issues at hand.
Following the uproar after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police earlier in the year, Goodell apologized for how the league had previously handled the issues of racism and social justice. Back then, a large collection of NFL stars came together to produce a video highlighting the need for change and players continue to use their platform in ways previously unseen in hopes of making the US a better place.
NBA, WNBA, MLB, NHS and MLS teams have all made the decision to boycott games in recent weeks in protest against the state of affairs in the country after another video emerged of police shooting a black man, this time the victim being Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.
Speaking to former Browns and Eagles linebacker Emmanuel Acho, Goodell recently admitted that he wished that ‘we had listened earlier’ to former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick has been out of the NFL since 2016 after choosing to protest against police brutality by taking a knee during the national anthem.
“I think all of us have a responsibility to learn and evolve,” Goodell said on the groundbreaking new UK channel Sky Sports NFL, the latest move by the league to expand and grow internationally. “The players made me aware of a lot of things that have been going on in these communities for decades, maybe centuries.
“That was something that was very important for us to understand, to listen to and then help and support them with programmes that help effectuate real change and try to end racism, and we should end racism. We should stop the oppression of black people.
“From our standpoint we want to be a part of that. Our programmes have really been effective. It’s the time now where we say ‘we need to do more’ and ‘how do we do that?’.”
Last week also saw the league announce plans to support a new one-hour programme on NBC that will allow players from across the league to have a platform to discuss potential solutions and the work being carried out in the efforts towards social justice.
Children of victims will be honoured by the players and the NFL and NFLPA have said that they will work together to provide a college education scholarship for them. Additionally, organizations and owners will arrange and partake in meetings between local and state elected officials and law enforcement to discuss plans and help improve community relations.
“We’ve been talking to our players and we have a new initiative this year, obviously NFL Votes to make sure people register and get out to vote in a non-partisan way,” explained Goodell.
Goodell also discussed the issues the league has faced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, including having to host the 2020 NFL Draft from home in April instead of Las Vegas, the new home of the Raiders.
Offseason activities were forced to be changed to virtual meetings as a large number of new players and coaches were unable to meet each other in person until much later in the year. International Series were cancelled with four games scheduled to be played in the UK and one in Mexico, while training camps were pushed back and all preseason fixtures cancelled.
Since making the eventual return to team facilities, players and staff have had to undergo regular testing and deal with unprecedented protocols, with those testing positive placed on the new Covid-19 reserve list. Players from around the league have also made the decision to opt out of the season entirely.
“I think the number one thing is to have health and safety, your players and your coaches and fans at the forefront,” said Goodell.
“That’s the number one issue you have to continue to focus on and you make decisions in the best interest of that objective.
“We spent the entire off season adapting to the pandemic and trying to find ways to operate effectively and I think all of us have to learn to operate and live with this pandemic.
“I’m proud of the way we did the Draft, I’m proud of the way we did the off season and proud of the way we did training camp. Our protocols that we put in place for training camp seem to be working, there’s a tremendous amount of testing and tracing identifying the virus, but also fortunately very low levels of the season.
“I believe we’re prepared for this season, we’re prepared to present our game in a positive way but more importantly keep everyone safe.”