In a video last week, Goodell conceded that the league had erred in “not listening” to NFL players who protested police brutality and systemic racism ― issues that have seized the nation’s attention since the police killing of George Floyd.
“We, the NFL, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest,” Goodell said. “We, the NFL, believe Black lives matter.”
The commissioner’s video came in response to a powerful statement from several athletes calling on the league to listen to their concerns. Goodell’s comments didn’t specifically mention the practice of kneeling during the national anthem, which some players have done to raise awareness of injustice (following the lead of then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick beginning in 2016). But his remarks appeared to be a reference to it.
Trump, who for years has deemed the NFL demonstrations unpatriotic and even called for kneelers to be fired, responded with predictably divisive rhetoric.
“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?” he tweeted Sunday.
Trump had already stoked the controversy last week when he declared that Saints quarterback Drew Brees should not have apologized for saying it was disrespectful to kneel during the national anthem. Brees’ initial remarks were condemned by other players, and he later acknowledged his comments “were insensitive and completely missed the mark.”