NFL commissioner Roger Goodell did not consult with team owners before recording his “We, the National Football League” statement Friday afternoon, The Washington Post’s Mark Maske reported Saturday. Goodell instead gave a small group of owners a “head’s up” that he was making a statement.
Those owners were supportive, sources told Maske. Goodell also alerted the NFL Players Association, per Maske’s report. (Subscription required.)
One source, whom Maske termed a Goodell associate, said Goodell’s current positive standing with owners gave him cover to act unilaterally.
“Post-second CBA, Roger is on incredibly firm ground with these guys, given the clout of his financial accomplishments,” Maske quoted the source as saying. “This is closer to his personal politics than people know, and he has always had a much better personal relationship with certain players than he gets credit for.”
In his statement, Goodell repeated parts of what a group of 18 players, led by Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas, asked the league to say. They wanted to hear a denunciation of racism and the league’s suppression of peaceful protests, and an acknowledgment that black lives matter.
Goodell deviated from the script with regard to the protests but followed the other parts verbatim.
Maske reported that Goodell recorded his statement after taking part in a town hall titled “A Discussion on Race & Injustice.” The town hall took place less than a week after Goodell and the league were widely criticized, including internally, for their initial statement about nationwide protests against the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
An NFL video producer, Brandon Mynter, told The Athletic that he wanted something more out of the league, so he worked on his own to get players to speak out. Thomas agreed to organize a Zoom video call, and the players’ video was produced Thursday.
While Thomas and other players received Goodell’s video positively, there was also criticism that Goodell did not apologize to former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for the league and owners’ opposition to his protests against police brutality and racial injustice, first by sitting and then by kneeling during the national anthem.
Kaepernick last played in the NFL in 2016, the year he held his protests. He and former teammate Eric Reid, who also protested, sued the league for collusion, claiming they were blackballed. The lawsuit was settled last year. The Panthers signed Reid in 2018, gave him a three-year contract extension in 2019 and cut him last March.
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