NFL’s Roger Goodell Backs ‘Peaceful Protests’ From Players After Trump Supports Quarterback’s Comments

June 6, 2020 Updated: June 9, 2020

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell apologized for not listening to the concerns of African-American NFL players and said he supports them for speaking up and encouraged “peaceful protests” in a video statement released on Friday.

“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.

Goodell’s stance came shortly after President Donald Trump said he supports New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who said it is disrespectful to kneel during the national anthem.

“We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart,” Trump said on Twitter. “There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag—NO KNEELING!”

Brees comments on kneeling during the national anthem were criticized by many, including former teammate Lamar Louis, who said on Twitter that Brees did not care enough to pick a side in the “fight for justice” because he was “comfortable” within his “own bubble.”

The New Orleans Saints star quarterback issued a public apology Thursday after he was excoriated by teammates, other athletes, and fans for saying he “will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States.”

Brees wrote a lengthy statement on Instagram following the backlash he received from the community and said: “I realize this is not an issue about the American flag.”

“We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities,” he said.

Trump responded that he is “a big fan of Drew Brees,” and that he should not have “taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag” and bowed to outside pressure.

The NFL commissioner made the statement on the issues many players passionately support one day after 2018 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and several of his peers released a video demanding the NFL to condemn racism.

“It has been a difficult time for our country. In particular, black people in our country,” Goodell said. “First, my condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and all the families who have endured police brutality. We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people.”

“Without black players, there would be no National Football League. And the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff. We are listening. I am listening, and I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve and go forward for a better and more united NFL family,” Goodell stated.

Floyd’s death has ignited nationwide protests over racial injustice and police brutality.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.