Patrick Mahomes’ voice was chief among those that finally convinced NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to re-do his league’s previously empty statements on racial injustice and admit its wrongdoings for “not listening to NFL players earlier.”
Now imagine if Goodell, a little more than two years after the NFL created a rule that would punish players for protesting during the national anthem, were to join the superstar Chiefs quarterback and other protesting players on a knee during the national anthem before Kansas City hosts Houston in the 2020 season-opener on Sept. 10.
Such a scenario might have seemed impossible a week ago, before Mahomes and a handful of other star players publicly called out the NFL for its hypocrisy. But suddenly, the commissioner — who gets paid to represent and be a shield for the team owners who like to hide in the dark while they direct Goodell’s messaging — appears human. And his going rogue for the greater good could continue.
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Goodell as part of his video statement Friday said, “I personally protest with you and want to be a part of the much-needed change in this country.” CBS’ Jason La Canfora reports that some in the NFL are anticipating a delivery on that promise.
We, the NFL, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of Black People. We, the NFL, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the NFL, believe Black Lives Matter. #InspireChangepic.twitter.com/ENWQP8A0sv
— NFL (@NFL) June 5, 2020
“I know some current and former players believe that to be a message of intent that Goodell would, in fact, be willing to take a knee in Week 1, or whenever the commissioner is able to travel to games as he normally would and whenever there are anthems being played again,” La Canfora reported. “Sources who were involved in various online calls between Goodell and league employees tell me that the commissioner capitulated on virtually everything he was asked to do by them, and understood what needed to be done at this critical juncture.”
Of course, the start of the season is still three months away (assuming there are no coronavirus-related setbacks), and there’s no telling what kind of influence will come from the same NFL team owners who have pushed to have protesting players punished. And many were quick to point out that Goodell in Friday’s statement failed to specifically mention the apparently blackballed Colin Kaepernick, though some have speculated the free-agent quarterback’s name was left out for legal reasons in the wake of last year’s collusion settlement.
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While the NFL technically still has a rule in place against players kneeling during the national anthem, it announced a few months after creating the rule that players who protest would not be disciplined, citing ongoing discussions with the NFL Players Association. Backing up the sentiment Goodell expressed in Friday’s statement, league officials told La Canfora “that, yes, in fact, the NFL is out of the business of sanctioning or discouraging any player from taking a knee.”
But what about a commissioner? Will Goodell’s proclamation of solidarity with protesting players hold firm through inevitable attacks from both the White House and the powers at be in his own league?
Or will Goodell, who reportedly had to be pushed by the NFL’s social media team as well as those star players to say “Black Lives Matter,” revert to his robotic state as programmed by the likes of Jerry Jones?