Patrick Mahomes, Saquon Barkley and Michael Thomas are among more than a dozen NFL stars who united to send a passionate video message to the league about racial inequality.
The 70-second video was released on social media platforms Thursday night and includes Odell Beckham Jr., Deshaun Watson, Ezekiel Elliott, Jamal Adams, Stephon Gilmore and DeAndre Hopkins, among others.
Thomas, the New Orleans Saints wide receiver who has led the league in receptions the past two seasons, opens the video with the statement: “It’s been 10 days since George Floyd was brutally murdered.” The players then take turns asking the question, “What if I was George Floyd?”
The players then name several of the black men and women who have recently been killed, including Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Eric Garner.
“I AM George Floyd,” Hopkins says.
Adams follows with: “I AM Breonna Taylor.”
The video closes with the players insisting they “will not be silenced.” They also demand the NFL state that it condemns “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.”
‘We were wrong,’ says NFL commissioner
Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league made mistakes in not listening to players, in a video on Friday denouncing racism in the United States amid widespread protests over police brutality against black people.
“We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest,” said Goodell. “We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter.”
The NFL has been locked in an ongoing debate with players over kneeling protests during the national anthem before the start of games, a practice popularized by quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016 to protest racial injustice and police brutality.
WATCH | NFL Commissioner admits league mistake for not listening to players:
Kaepernick filed a grievance against the league in 2017, claiming collusion as no teams signed him after he parted ways with the San Francisco 49ers. The NFL and Kaepernick settled in 2019.
“Protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff,” said Goodell. “I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve.”
The NFL sent the video out just hours after U.S. President Donald Trump renewed his call for an end to kneeling protests during the national anthem.
Jaguars lead march against racial injustice
The Jacksonville Jaguars protested against inequality and police brutality on Friday, marching from their stadium to the steps of the sheriff’s department.
“Today, we say, ‘No more,'” wide receiver Chris Conley said. “Today, we see a nation that can’t await change, a city that won’t sit still or be quiet.”
The Jaguars started their march at 9:04 a.m. local time to signify the local 904 area code.
The protest came two days after owner Shad Khan spoke against racism in a letter on the team website. He promised then the franchise would work toward a “timely response.” Former Jaguars receiver Ernest Wilford, now an officer at the department, joined them on the steps at the sheriff’s office.
Conley spoke at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. He said he cried when he saw the video of the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was jogging when killed Feb. 23 in Georgia.
Marrone said the Jaguars are working on actions they believe can make a difference. He also challenged the white community to step back, listen and learn.
“Let’s not make the same mistakes we’ve made,” Marrone said. “We need to stand together white and black to make this movement work.”
With the NFL allowing only coaches to return to their offices Friday and players still working remotely because of the pandemic, several Jaguars could not take part in the march.
The team posted videos from a handful of players, including quarterback Gardner Minshew, linebacker Joe Schobert and defensive end Aaron Lynch. Schobert encouraged people to register to vote.
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The Jaguars’ protest is the latest involving professional athletes since the killing of Floyd in Minneapolis.
Two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry marched in a protest Wednesday along with his wife and four teammates from the Golden State Warriors, including Klay Thompson. Shaq Thompson, and four other Carolina Panthers walked in a protest march Monday in Charlotte, with Thompson helping lead the way.
Broncos plan Saturday march in Denver
On Saturday, several Denver Broncos and coaches plan to march to the Colorado capitol, the site of daily demonstrations. Safety Kareem Jackson organized the gathering after saying Tuesday that players need to do more than tweet and talk because they all see what’s going on.
“I think it’s huge for us to be heard,” Jackson said Tuesday on a video call, “and it’s huge for us to be out in the community so everyone can see us and know that we stand behind them.”
General manager John Elway says he’s no longer staying on the sidelines and is “joining with the players, coaches and our organization in speaking up against racism, police brutality and any injustice against the black community.”
The comments came in a lengthy Twitter post at the end of a tempestuous week in which his head coach, Vic Fangio, drew widespread condemnation for suggesting he didn’t see racism or discrimination in the NFL.
On Friday night, Elway tweeted that he spent much of the week listening to his players and coaches and realized his views he’s held for decades were wrong.
“I always thought that since I grew up in a locker room, I knew everything there was to know about understanding teammates from different backgrounds and walks of life,” Elway wrote. “What I’ve realized is that I could not have been more wrong.
“Listening to players and reading their social media, the strength they have shown and the experiences they have shared has been powerful. It has impacted me. I realize I have a long way to go, but I will keep listening and learning,” Elway added. “That is the only way to grow. I truly believe a lot of good will come from the many difficult conversations that are taking place around our team, league and country.”