The NFL this week took what was seen as an unusually aggressive stance on the Black Lives Matter movement, with commissioner Roger Goodell releasing a video condemning racism and admitting that the league was in the wrong for not giving players the ability to speak out in the past.
It was an abrupt change for many, especially as critics believed the NFL helped to blackball former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for his protest taking a knee during the national anthem. As a report from Yahoo Sports noted, it was a stance that started with the rogue actions of one of the NFL’s low-level social media employees.
The report noted that Bryndon Minter, who works in a social media and marketing role with the NFL, reached out to New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas to ask if he was interested in creating a project calling the league into action around the Black Lives Matter movement. The report noted that Minter sent an Instagram direct message, not knowing if Thomas would respond — or even see it.
“Want to help you create content to be heard around the league,” Minter wrote.
“I’m a NFL social employee and am embarrassed by how the league has been silent this week. The NFL hasn’t condemned racism. The NFL hasn’t said that Black Lives Matter.”
The outreach could have gotten Minter fired, but the report noted that Thomas was on board with the idea. A day later, a number of the league’s top black players came together to create a powerful video calling on the league to listen to its players and take a stand against racism.
“A message on behalf of the nfl” pic.twitter.com/iilDpnZfyV
— Michael Thomas (@Cantguardmike) June 5, 2020
Kaepernick’s protest and his inability to find another NFL job after leaving the San Francisco 49ers was frequently referenced over the course of the last two weeks as many of the peaceful protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death grew violent.
The report noted that tensions had been growing among NFL employees this week, many of them calling on the league to take a strong stance on the issue and consider making structural changes within the organization. Ultimately, the league listened to its employees and players, having Goodell record a video in which the league admitted they were wrong for not listening to players and encouraging them to speak out and peacefully protest.
“We, the NFL, believe Black Lives Matter,” Goodell said in the video published on Friday.