How has the NFL reacted to the Black Lives Matter movement?

The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others at the hands of police officers have taken an immense effect beyond the United States.

Millions of people across the globe are speaking out and have been actively taking steps to demand change. Peaceful protests and riots have stemmed from these tragic events in order to showcase the need for justice.

Not only is America going through a tough and stressful situation when it comes to police brutality, but we are also suffering from a deadly virus.

Americans have little hope in the future following the uncomfortable and tragic events. But sports have always encouraged people to band together. It has always played a significant role in society. 

In the past, sports have been an active leader in promoting social justice and change to the world.

However, the NFL has had its controversies that leave some people to believe that they strictly see their athletes as players and not people.

Four years ago, then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem to protest against racial injustice and police brutality in America. 

After seeing this, many people felt that the league’s lack of support for Kaepernick showed that they were not taking the current issues seriously. They felt that the league was missing the big point that Kaepernick was trying to make.

Now, NFL players have decided that enough is enough and that change needs to be made within the league in order to move forward.

Elite players including Pro Bowlers Michael Thomas, Deshaun Watson and reigning Super Bowl MVP and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes have taken to social media to post a 71-second video calling out the commissioner, Roger Goodell, to support their Black players and address systemic issues within the Black community.

In response, Goodell posted a video of him on Twitter apologizing to players just hours later.

“We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of Black people,” he said in the video. “The league admit[s] we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage[s] all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the NFL, believe Black Lives Matter.”

The NFL is greatly admired by Americans, with millions and millions of fans. It is a big part of the blueprint of the American entertainment industry. 

The fact that the league has agreed to revise their initial reaction to social injustice in Black communities during this uncomfortable time in America shows that they are finally beginning to take advantage of their platform and bringing awareness to serious issues when it comes to Black lives. 

The NFL has set up a program called Inspire Change, raising $44 million in donations to support “programs and initiatives that reduce barriers to opportunity, with a focus on  … education and economic advancement, police and community relations, and criminal justice reform,” according to the website. 

They have also announced a commitment to donate $250 million over the next decade towards combating racism and social injustice in America.

This is just the start of a progressing path towards change.

The recent police officer-involved shooting of Rayshard Brooks at an Atlanta Wendy’s drive-thru hit home.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said in a statement on his Twitter that “Rayshard Brooks should be alive – end of story” and that “we cannot continue to lose lives due to police brutality.”

The Falcons have been very supportive of the Atlanta community when it comes to social justice issues long before this year. 

Players, coaches and other members of the Falcons organization have actively taken part in protests, raising money for Black communities and awareness of social issues.

Ryan has been one of the more outspoken athletes during this devastating time.

He has publicly admitted to reacting to social injustice situations with “empathy and silent support” but failing to respond to them.

He said that he hopes to make a serious impact on Black communities in Atlanta through the improvement of situations and hardships that they are facing when it comes to social justice.

Ryan has also created a GoFundMe to advance the lives of the Black community in Atlanta with donations exceeding $1.2 million, including $500,000 coming from his own pocket.

Head coach Dan Quinn, alongside other members of the Falcons such as General Manager Thomas Dimitroff and players Mykal Walker, Ricardo Allen, LeRoy Reynolds and Tyeler Davison, assistant coaches Doug Mallory and Bernie Parmalee and media relations staffers David Bassity, Matt Haley and Gaby Moran, have also taken the initiative to bring awareness to social issues by participating in a peaceful protest in Buckhead Atlanta. The Buckhead protest was named “Buckhead4BlackLives.”