A week after commissioner Roger Goodell condemned racism and said the NFL supports Black Lives Matter in a viral video, the league has actually taken a few actions that indicate it is serious about implementing change.
First, the NFL pledged to spend $250 million over the next decade to combat systemic racism and fight injustices against African-Americans. (Sure, that only works out to $781,250 per team per year, but who’s counting?) And the league is reportedly willing to work with Colin Kaepernick, who brought massive attention to racial injustice starting 2016, on its donation initiative.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today without the work Colin and other players have led off,” a source told NFL.com’s Judy Battista. “That is a key point here. We listened to our players. We needed to listen more, we needed to move faster. We heard them and launched a social justice platform because of what Colin was protesting about. The players have always been an essential piece of this effort and this campaign. It would be awesome to engage Colin on some of the work we are doing. He’s doing real impactful work. Getting him in some way would be amazing for us. There’s a lot of work to do to get to that point. We’re certainly open and willing to do that.”
In a related move, the league has also made June 19 a holiday and will close the league offices to honor the day. Known as Juneteenth, June 19 commemorates the end of slavery and marks the day in 1865 when Union soldiers delivered the news in Texas that enslaved people were now free.
“It is a day to reflect on our past, but more importantly, consider how each one of us can continue to show up and band together to work toward a better future,” Goodell wrote in a memo to staff about the league recognizing Juneteenth.
Not to diminish what the NFL is doing, but it is worth noting the league is essentially going with the flow of public opinion. A new Yahoo poll shows the percentage of Americans who believe it is appropriate for NFL players to kneel in protest during the national anthem has gone up from 28 percent in 2016 to 52 percent today. Only 36 percent of the 1,570 Americans who were polled said it was inappropriate to do so.
So, while the NFL is doing what is right, the league is also doing what is (now) popular. Some players, justifiably so, are still skeptical about the league’s sincerity and true commitment to Black Lives Matter.
For what it’s worth, free-agent defensive end Michael Bennett was very critical of what Goodell had to say a week ago about the BLM movement.
“[Goodell] saying that Black Lives Matter is almost like a slap in the face,” Bennett told The Daily Beast. “Black talent has been exploited at a high level in the NFL. He knows Black Lives Matter, because without black players the NFL wouldn’t be as lucrative as it is. We have to continuously push the NFL to change its core values and change its moral compass on a consistent basis. If not, shame on us and shame us for real.”
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