The NFL's statement in the wake of George Floyd's death in police custody drew criticism from around the sports world, with Minnesota Vikings linebackers Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr being the latest to condemn the league for its hypocrisy.
Both linebackers sent a series of identical tweets condemning the league's statement and lack of past action and asking for help to enact change.
.@NFL what actual steps are you taking to support the fight for justice and system reform?— Eric Kendricks (@EricKendricks54) June 2, 2020
Your statement said nothing. Your league is built on black athletes. Vague answers do nothing. Let the players know what you’re ACTUALLY doing.
And we know what silence means. pic.twitter.com/EOqzDjW1an
The @Vikings have opened a dialogue with players and we’re all working towards solutions with the team...if anyone has suggestions for how to support the city, we’d love to hear them.— Eric Kendricks (@EricKendricks54) June 2, 2020
Our team doesn’t just want to donate — we want to work with local organizations and get out there to help facilitate change. DM me or comment if you have any suggestions or info.— Eric Kendricks (@EricKendricks54) June 2, 2020
But we want answers at the league level. That’s where change can happen, and we’ve seen none. Because right now, it seems like nothing. And nothing is unacceptable.— Eric Kendricks (@EricKendricks54) June 2, 2020
You can’t bring in people to teach us how we should interact with police but not work towards changing the behavior of the police themselves.— Eric Kendricks (@EricKendricks54) June 2, 2020
Silence will not make this go away. @NFL #WeWantAnswers #BlackLivesMatter
While the NFL's statement claims it is looking to address the systemic issues together, that flies in the face of their treatment of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 in protest of police brutality against African-Americans. Kaepernick last played in the NFL in 2016. After opting out of his contract with the 49ers, he was not signed by another team and he has alleged that NFL owners conspired to keep him out of the league. Kaepernick settled a collusion lawsuit with the NFL in 2019.
Kaepernick's peaceful protest has received renewed attention in the wake of Floyd's death in police custody as citizens march across the United States to protest police brutality and systemic racism.
Floyd, a 46-year old African-American man died in police custody and citizens filmed Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer placing his knee on Floyd's neck for over eight minutes. Floyd told Chauvin and the three other officers who were watching that he couldn't breathe and asked Chauvin to let up, but Chauvin kept his knee pressed into Floyd's neck for over three minutes after he became unconscious. It was later announced Floyd died in police custody. Chauvin was arrested Friday and will be charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The other officers have not been arrested but still could face charges.
While the NFL's statement was tone-deaf, several organizations from around the sports world have given thoughtful statements and put their money where their mouth is.
49ers owner Jed York donated $1 million to organizations dedicated to social change.
"We started some social justice work and using that term when Colin started his protest," York told NFL Media's Jim Trotter. "I think we'd always been working in this area but it was clear to label it social justice. ... I think the piece that we missed in 2016, and it's a fairly simple piece, I don't know if anybody actually addressed what the issue was, and we're trying to fight racism in this country.
"I think that's what we need to clearly call out, and you can't defeat something if you can't admit that's actually what you're fighting."
Raiders owner Mark Davis issued a powerful statement condemning the "murder" of Floyd and has been meeting with officials in Henderson, Nevada to listen, learn and try to be part of positive change.
"If they have something to say, I'll stand beside them," Davis told ESPN. "I won't stand behind them. I'll stand beside them. And if there's something I don't know, I'm happy to listen to them. We've got to find a solution."
Steph Curry, Chris Long and Steve Kerr all have called for white people to get uncomfortable, speak up and be part of the solution. Kerr and Long both spoke on the importance of star white quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers speaking out on the matter. 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman echoed the importance of white quarterbacks speaking up at this moment.
The criticism of the NFL is warranted given their treatment of Kaepernick, Eric Reid and others who knelt to protest police brutality and systemic racism. Kaepernick's protest wasn't accepted by the league as it should have been. His action was born out of the desire to enact change. He not only sacrificed his career (to this point) but he also has donated more than $1 million to organizations fighting for social change. The NFL could have listened, acknowledge and amplified Kaepernick's message. Instead, it chose to do the opposite.
The statement itself was tone-deaf and their inaction in the fight against systemic racism will always be louder than four paragraphs on a tweet.
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