In response to commissioner Roger Goodell’s video last week in which he said the NFL erred in how it dealt with player protests of police brutality and systemic racism, President Donald Trump tweeted late Sunday night, reopening the national anthem debate with the league.
The tweet read: “Could it be even remotely possible that in Roger Goodell’s rather interesting statement of peace and reconciliation, he was intimating that it would now be O.K. for the players to KNEEL, or not to stand, for the National Anthem, thereby disrespecting our Country & our Flag?”
Could it be even remotely possible that in Roger Goodell’s rather interesting statement of peace and reconciliation, he was intimating that it would now be O.K. for the players to KNEEL, or not to stand, for the National Anthem, thereby disrespecting our Country & our Flag?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 8, 2020
The message came two days after Goodell pledged to do better as the league pushes toward the 2020 season, saying that he encouraged players to “peacefully protest.”
“We are listening. I am listening,” Goodell said. “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.”
In Goodell’s message, he did not address the national anthem, the American flag or kneeling.
The anthem issue has been a point of contention between Trump and the league before. In September 2017, Trump, while speaking in Alabama, encouraged team owners to release players who knelt during the anthem.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b—- off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired,'” Trump said at the time.
Goodell’s video, which ran for 1 minute, 21 seconds, was a response to a series of requests put forth last week by more than a dozen star players, including Pro Bowl quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.
In that video, the players asked the NFL to condemn racism, admit wrong in previous attempts to silence peaceful protests and to affirm that black lives matter. Goodell repeated their words nearly verbatim in his video.
“We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people,” he said. “We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all players to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe that black lives matter.”
Goodell went on to say that he would begin reaching out to players who have raised their voices and added: “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.”