Goodell posted a video to the NFL’s social media on Friday in response to the video “Stronger Together,” which features multiple black NFL players asking the league to take a strong stance in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
“We the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people,” Goodell said. “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,” Goodell said.
Notably, Goodell did not mention former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who faced a backlash from the league and others for kneeling before games while the National Anthem played to protest police brutality.
Goodell said he will be reaching out to players and others who have spoken out on these issues to see “how we can improve and go forward for a better and more united NFL family.” It’s unclear if that includes Kaepernick. CNN has reached out to Kaepernick for comment.
Reaction to statement was swift
Sports analyst and USA Today columnist Christine Brennan told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that she’s known Goodell a long time and believes he’s being sincere in his message. But Brennan noted the lack of an apology to Kaepernick.
“There are things he cares about,” she said. “People criticize him all the time but can see him watching what’s going on, listening to his players, like he said, ‘if there are no black players, there is no National Football League.’ He knows that and means it. Would have loved to see him apologize to Colin Kaepernick or say something about Kaepernick. Maybe that’s another day. But NFL has gone out in a big way and I’m sure one of their biggest fans, Donald Trump, is not happy about it.”
Former NFL player Donté Stallworth told CNN’s Don Lemon that Goodell’s comments were “a decent first step.”
“What a lot of people have said all day since this video has come out is Roger Goodell should have mentioned Colin Kaepernick by name. And they haven’t done that,” Stallworth said. “And I think that is the thing that a lot of people still don’t trust the NFL’s words because their actions have shown and proven otherwise that they don’t support the NFL players…”
Rapper and actor Ice Cube offered a succinct reaction by tweeting a photo of Kaepernick with the caption, “NFL: Do The Right Thing by this man.”
“Without black players there would be no National Football League,” Goodell said. “And the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff.”
In the video, the players, speaking in unison, say: “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.”
Goodell’s response comes after a nearly year-long partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation. The partnership established The Responsibility Program, an initiative providing education grants to families that have been affected by injustices through the United States. The program has created multiple public service announcements which have been released one of which featured Meek Mill and the Dreamchasers.
A spokesperson for the NFL’s Inspire Change program told CNN that a Legacy Grant Program was recently launched and that three grants have already been given to families of victims of police brutality: Botham Jean, Antwon Rose II and Danroy “DJ” Henry.
Goodell’s video also follows comments from New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who said earlier this week he would “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag.” Brees made the comment when asked his opinion about players kneeling to protest police brutality once the NFL season begins this fall.
CNN’s Faith Karimi and Jill Martin contributed to this report.