There aren’t many things more uncomfortable for most people than frank discussions about race, but that is something that is happening all over the country over the course of the past week. It’s become a subject that has been virtually impossible to ignore in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, and its repercussions have permeated virtually every walk of life, simply because everything involves people—and this affects everybody.
While ‘stick to football’ is a common refrain told the players from fans who don’t want to hear about anything other than sports, the reality is that this is the same message that has been told to them just about everywhere. Their business partners have said or implied it. Politicians have shouted it at them. And their teams, and their league, have frowned upon overly indulging in their right to free speech.
Last night, a number of prominent members of the National Football League shared a video calling for action from the league. The video includes the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Saquon Barkley, Odell Beckham, Jr., DeAndre Hopkins, Patrick Peterson, and a number of other African American athletes who want to see more from their employers. Following is their message to the league:
We will not be silenced. We assert our right to peacefully protest. It shouldn’t take this long to admit.
So on behalf of the National Football League, this is what we the players would like to hear you state: We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systemic oppression of black people. We, the National Football League, admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting. We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter.
— Saquon Barkley (@saquon) June 5, 2020
The league also released a new statement last night via its Instagram page, in which it aims to “challenge the injustice around us”, while announcing the commitment of an additional $20 million in donations to a variety of charity organizations. “We know that we can and need to do more”, the statement concludes.
View this post on Instagram
This is a time of self-reflection for all – the NFL is no exception. We stand with the black community because Black Lives Matter. Through Inspire Change, the NFL, Players and our partners have supported programs and initiatives throughout the country to address systemic racism. We will continue using our platform to challenge the injustice around us. To date we have donated $44 million to support hundreds of worthy organizations. This year, we are committing an additional $20 million to these causes and we will accelerate efforts to highlight their critical work. We know that we can and need to do more.
This has been a dangerous subject for the league in recent years, with pressure from both business and political spheres. No challenge will be greater than the one they are likely to face when the season starts. It’s hard to imagine that there won’t be a large number of players who want to exercise their right to peaceful protest, and the nation will be watching to see how the NFL responds to them doing so.
Facing mounting pressure from both sides, they are in an unenviable position in this regard. But I’m sure their hundreds of billions of dollars in profits will console them during this difficult time.