Aliyu Saadu- Staff Writer
National Football League (NFL) players have been protesting during the National Anthem since the beginning of the 2020-21 season to use their platform to fight for equality in the U.S.
“We’re going to stand behind our players, we respect our players and they have done a great job of bringing attention to these issues,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in an interview on Squawk Alley. “Our focus now is, ‘How do we support them making the changes?”
The start of the NFL season has been historic due football playing during a pandemic, having no fans in the stadiums, and players protesting during the National Anthem. Through the league players have been protesting and outspoken for change to ensure that their voices are heard.
During Week 1 of NFL games, teams played the National Negro Anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing, and the National Anthem, Star Spangled Banner, before the start of their games. In the season game opener between the Houston Texans vs. Kansas Chiefs, the Texans chose to remain in the locker room during the playing of the anthems. Teams across the league locked arms in unity, kneeled, or remained in the locker room during the anthem just as the Texans.
“It is not about the flag,” Goodell said. “The message here [is] that what our players are doing is being mischaracterized. These are not people who are unpatriotic. They’re not disloyal, They’re not against our military,” said Goodell in Emmanuel Acho’s Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man YouTube series. “What they were trying to do is exercise their right to bring attention to something that needs to get fixed.”
These NFL players have made it known that they are not here just to entertain, but having their voices heard. The deaths of George Floyd in Minnesota and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky earlier this year fueled players to be active in the fight for social justice through their season.
This has led the NFL launched the NFL Votes Initiative in August to promote fans to vote and get more people in at voting polls. The NFL has partnered with the Rock the Vote, RISE to Vote and I am a Voter to promote educational seminars and help with registrations for all NFL personnel. There have been 14 teams that will use their stadiums as a voting poll in November. The NFL is reaching out to their employees and fans to help out on election day to replace the older workers that are at high risk for COVID-19. Lastly, the NFL has committed $250 million to combat systemic racism in the next ten years.
“The days of ‘sports and social issues aren’t going to mix,’ that’s the old world, these issues are top of mind, and the players are going to use their platforms,” said social justice activist and the Executive Chairman of Fanatics Michael Rubin in an interview with New York Times. “I don’t see any chance of this reversing course.”
It has been over four years since NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick became the first player to kneeled to protest racism and police brutality. This may have led to the end of his career as a player, but it has been the spark that has led to the protests and social justice fight in the NFL. As the season goes on, NFL Players look to continue to use their national platform this year to keep the momentum and fight for equality in the United States.