Over the weekend, a former NFL employee publicly criticized the league’s handling of the Colin Kaepernick situation. Now, a current NFL employee has spoken out against the league’s treatment of Kaepernick.
“It’s unfortunate and it’s sad and it’s a black eye on our league, no question about it,” Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson told Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I think now people are starting to appreciate what he did and they’re understanding of why he did what he did even though at the time he was telling us what he was doing it for. But people didn’t want to listen. They wanted to hijack the message and say, ‘Oh, he’s disrespecting the flag.’ Now when it’s blatant and it’s in your face, you have to accept the fact that, you know what, I was wrong. This is not right.”
How powerful would it be if the NFL and its owners were to send that same message in this moment? “We were wrong, and we are committed to changing our ways” is the kind of thing that would inspire millions to search their own hearts, to consider their own actions and attitudes, and to develop the comfort necessary to embrace real change in the way they think and act.
“I’m just glad people are not turning a blind eye,” Tomlinson added. “I’m happy they’re not saying this is just one incident and that’s a bad cop. I’m glad people are not doing that. We need true police reform. We need justice reform. We need criminal justice reform. We need all of these things.”
Tomlinson is encouraged by the fact that the murder of George Floyd has gotten the attention of those in the majority.
“If I’m being honest and true and transparent about this, our white brothers and sisters, to me, have finally said enough is enough,” Tomlinson said. “We know the history and now we’re seeing it over and over again. This is too much. We don’t want to live like this. The younger generation is saying this is not who we want to be, so we see a rise up with the younger generation.
“For so long, when Michael Brown got murdered and Tamir Rice, you know what I wondered? Why isn’t any of our big-time white quarterbacks saying anything? Because in the locker room, we’re supposed to be brothers. We fight and bleed for the same cause. I care about you just like you care about me. I don’t care what color you are. It’s all about winning in the locker room. Why aren’t they saying anything?
“Fast forward to now and Joe Burrow puts out a statement. Big-time white quarterbacks are now starting to say something.”
It’s a great development, but it’s just a start. Telling the truth and saying what needs to be said sometimes requires courage. Tomlinson has shown courage to criticize the league over Kaepernick (which remains a very sore spot for the NFL), given that the Commissioner signs Tomlinson’s NFL Network paychecks.
Will other league employees, going all the way up to the Commissioner himself, show similar courage to say and do the right thing at this critical moment in American history without regard to personal or professional consequence?