NFL faces online backlash after releasing a statement describing an 'urgent need for action' amid George Floyd protests

insider@insider.com (Ellen Cranley)
·3 min read
roger goodell
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks from his home in Bronxville, New York during the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft on April 23, 2020.

Photo by NFL via Getty Images

  • Protests broke out in Minneapolis and across the US after the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

  • A statement from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sparked thousands of reactions online calling out the league for its past responses to protests over racial inequality and police brutality. 

  • Many replies to the tweeted statement referenced the league's policy of punishment of players who joined Colin Kaepernick in peaceful protest by kneeling during the national anthem. 

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

The NFL set off waves of criticism on Saturday after the league's account posted a statement on the death of George Floyd from commissioner Roger Goodell.

The 150-word statement was posted on the league's website and Twitter account.

"The NFL family is greatly saddened by the tragic events across our country. The protesters' reactions to these incidents reflect the pain, anger and frustration that so many of us feel.

Our deepest condolences go out to the family of Mr. George Floyd and to those who have lost loved ones, including the families of Ms. Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and Mr. Ahmaud Arbery, the cousin of Tracy Walker of the Detroit Lions.

As current events dramatically underscore, there remains much more to do as a country and as a league. These tragedies inform the NFL's commitment and our ongoing efforts. There remains an urgent need for action. We recognize the power of our platform in communities and as part of the fabric of American society. We embrace that responsibility and are committed to continuing the important work to address these systemic issues together with our players, clubs and partners."

The tweet containing a screenshot of the statement was met with thousands of mocking and critical replies.

 

Many users directly referenced the league's clash with Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers after the quarterback became known in 2016 for the peaceful protest of taking a knee during the national anthem to call out racial inequality and police brutality.

Kaepernick quickly became a divisive icon for protests and has since stepped away from football, but funded a legal defense fund for people arrested in Minneapolis while protesting Floyd's death.

One tweet replied with a screenshot of a news report on Goodell's May 2018 announcement that all players on the field must stand for the national anthem, or teams would be fined.

Filmmaker and director Ava DuVernay replied to the statement to dismiss it as "beyond hollow + disingenuous."

Former White House and NFL spokesman turned CNN contributor Joe Lockhart wrote a CNN op-ed that defended the league, saying he and other leaders pushed for teams to sign Kaepernick despite the kneeling controversy, but it came down to clubs dropping the quarterback as a means to making "a good business decision."

Lockhart also wrote in the column that the Minnesota Vikings should sign Kaepernick.

"It will not solve the problem of blacks and police violence," Lockhart wrote. "But it will recognize the problem that Kaepernick powerfully raised, and perhaps show that, with courage, real progress can be made."

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