On May 30, a statement from the NFL commissioner offered condolences to the families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, all of whom had been killed, and said the league would commit itself to addressing systemic issues, He didn’t didn’t offer details.
“Without black players there would be no National Football League,” Goodell said. “And the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff.”
But it was what went unsaid that people online seized upon.
One name: Colin Kaepernick.
Goodell made no mention of the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, who first led the peaceful protest back in 2016 against police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem. At the end of the 2016-17 season, Kaepernick was let go by the 49ers.
Unable to get a job since becoming a free agent, Kaepernick has still been busy. In 2016, he and partner Nessa Diab started the nonprofit Know Your Rights Camp, which seeks to educate and empower black and brown youth.
He’s since become the poster child of the protest movement. His face is on shirts, almost always depicted kneeling.
Just this week, as thousands of protesters across the US and the world protested police brutality after the death of George Floyd, many took a knee — just as Kaepernick did.
“NFL: Do The Right Thing by this man,” he wrote, attaching a photo of Kaepernick.
Even before Goodell’s admission that the NFL made a mistake, there were calls to rehire Kaepernick.
“It will not solve the problem of blacks and police violence,” he wrote. “But it will recognize the problem that Kaepernick powerfully raised, and perhaps show that, with courage, real progress can be made.”
On Friday, though, those calls grew even louder.
Goodell’s statement, though stronger, doesn’t cut it anymore, the sentiments online went.
CORRECTION: This piece has been updated to say Mike Freeman is a former NFL columnist for Bleacher Report.