Once again, 45 has proven that Black people are nothing more than property to him. In response, athletes and individuals around the league and our country united to fight back. Now, we’re calling on owners to reject Trump’s words by doing more than linking arms with players but actually working to protect their safety, rights, and freedoms both on and off the field.
On Friday night in Alabama, Donald Trump reaffirmed his disdain for Black people by referring to any NFL player who peacefully protests racial inequality during the pregame national anthem as a “son of a bitch” who should be forced off the field. During his rambling speech, Trump also took the time to criticize the NFL for implementing rules to promote player safety because those efforts impact his personal entertainment. This came about a week after Trump went after sports journalist Jemele Hill and tried to publicly strongarm ESPN into firing her for comments made on her personal social media.
Perhaps he was feeling emboldened by NFL buddies like Dan Snyder (Washington), Shad Khan (Jaguars), Bob McNair (Texans), Robert Kraft (Patriots), Woody Johnson (Jets) and Stan Kroenke (Rams), all of whom each contributed $1 Million to his inauguration. Kraft even gave him a Super Bowl ring. Or perhaps he had the consent of the league itself, as their marketing department contributed $100,000. Either way, Trump feels way too comfortable demanding the NFL be nothing more than a league of modern day gladiators whose sole purpose is to destroy their bodies for entertainment. Now it’s time for Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL owners to choose which side they’re on.
Earlier this year, a group of players and a former player, Malcolm Jenkins, Michael Bennett, Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin, met with Goodell and NFL officers to discuss the Player’s Coalition’s activism in their local communities. They delivered a recently publicized memo calling on the NFL to declare November a month of social activism to advance racial justice causes, including criminal justice reform, to elevate the issue in the same way the NFL does with Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. The request is detailed and includes an ask for owners and league officials to attend player-led visits to local prisons and meetings with formerly incarcerated people and their family. It also makes clear that the request is not for permission but financial support and genuine collaboration.
After Trump’s Friday night tirade, several NFL owners rushed to release statements condemning his words.1 But we need action- not more words. To this day Colin Kaepernick remains blackballed by league owners, despite public acknowledgment from elite quarterbacks around the league from Cam Newton to Tom Brady that Kaepernick is more talented that numerous QBs who have jobs today. Equivocation and calls for unity from the league are no longer acceptable.
Now that several NFL owners claim to support of their players’ rights, it is time for Commissioner Goodell to declare November a “month of unity.” NFL rosters are 70% black, and the league owes it to its players to recognize the heroes who have stood up to racial intolerance in America.2 Soccer leagues around the world are working to stand up to racism;3 it is past time for the NFL to do the same. As DeMaurice Smith, the president of the players’ union, said on Saturday, “We will never back down. We no longer can afford to stick to sports.”4
Until justice is real,
— Brandi, Rashad, Arisha, Evan, Jade, Anika, Corina, the rest of the Color Of Change team.
1. “NFL Owners Are Closing Ranks Against Trump — Here’s What They’re Saying,” Fortune, 24 September 2017. http://act.colorofchange.org/
2. “White House doubles down on ESPN attacks, cites previous ‘suspension’ as reason Jemele Hill should be fired,” The Undefeated, 26 April 2017. https://act.colorofchange.org/
3. “FIFA is finally stepping up its anti-racism measures in soccer,” Quartz, 15 June 2017. https://act.colorofchange.org/
4. DeMaurice Smith, 23 September 2017. https://act.colorofchange.org/