NFL players including Saquon Barkley, Patrick Mahomes and Odell Beckham Jr have issued a powerful challenge to the league, demanding it release a statement condemning racism and admit to silencing players like Colin Kaepernick from peacefully protesting.
On Thursday evening 18 players released a poignant coordinated video in which they called out the league for silencing protesters and urged officials to ‘listen to your players’ in defense of black lives.
The video was released in response to the protests unfolding across American decrying the brutal police killing of black man George Floyd in Minnesota on May 25.
‘It’s been 10 days since George Floyd was brutally murdered,’ New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas says at the start of the clip.
NFL players including Saquon Barkley, Patrick Mahomes and Odell Beckham Jr released a powerful challenge to the league on Thursday, demanding it release a statement condemning racism and admit to silencing players like Colin Kaepernick from peacefully protesting
They said: ‘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 a systematic 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”‘
The moving video ends with Odell Beckham Jr saying: ‘Black Lives Matter’
‘How many times do we need to ask you to listen to your players?’ Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu asks.
‘What will it take?’ Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Hopkins continues.
‘For one of us to be murdered by police brutality?’ Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry challenges.
Several new faces – including Sterling Shepard and Jamal Adams – then list off the names of black police Brutality victims saying: ‘I am George Floyd. I am Breonna Taylor. I am a Ahmaud Arbery. I am Eric Garner. I am Laquan McDonald. I am Tamir Rice. I am Trayvon Martin. I am Walter Scott. I am Michael Brown Jr. I am Samuel DuBose. I am Frank Smart. I am Phillip White. I am Jordan Baker.’
And the end the player pose their demands before the league.
‘We will not be silenced. We assert our right to peacefully protest. It shouldn’t take this long to admit,’ they say.
The players referred to how former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem in 2016 to peacefully protest police brutality against black people, but after the season wrapped up he remained unsigned
The players released their video hours after the NFL released this statement that didn’t meet the expectations of many team players
‘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 a systematic 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.”‘
The clip, uploaded around 9pm EST, was released 10 days after Floyd’s death as protests continued to diligently emerge in the street rallying for justice.
The collaborative video message was reportedly orchestrated by Saints receiver Michael Thomas in response to Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ statement where he said he can ‘never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America’.
Drew Brees issued an apology on Thursday after he said in an interview that he can ‘never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America’ and was met with outrage from NFL stars including his own teammates
Brees issued an Instagram apology on Thursday following heat from LeBron James, NFL stars, and his fellow teammates.
‘I would like to apologize to my friends, teammates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, NFL community and anyone I hurt with my comments yesterday,’ Brees wrote on Instagram. ‘In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused.’
It’s not clear what the players intend to do if the NFL refuses to comply with their demands.
Earlier on Thursday the NFL released a statement condemning police brutality, but it apparently was not enough for many star players.
The NFL faced backlash on social media for their statement that skirted around how it failed to sign Kaepernick to a team following his controversial kneeling protests
‘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,’ the statement said.