Report: Most owners were “taken by surprise” by the Roger Goodell video

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As it turns out, the league employee who came up with the idea for that compelling video from multiple star NFL players wasn’t the only league employee who went rogue this week.

According to Mark Maske of the Washington Post, the NFL’s 32 owners “mostly were taken by surprise” by Commissioner Roger Goodell’s video response to the video published a day earlier by the players. Per the report, Goodell “gave a head’s up to a few owners” after he decided what to do.

The “few owners” undoubtedly were the most powerful of the owners, the ones who actually run the league and the ones with whom Goodell communicates most frequently. The rest, the ones who don’t run the league, didn’t get advance notice.

But those aren’t the ones Goodell would have to worry about. He spoke to the ones who run the show, which takes a lot of steam out of the perception that Goodell went out on a limb without approval.

An unnamed source told Maske that “most owners” are expected to support Goodell’s statement. However, some owners expect a backlash from fans whose views on protests mesh with the President’s. Maske also reports that some wonder about Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, given his past position that players always should stand for the anthem.

NFL employee went “rogue” to create “I am George Floyd” video

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On Friday night, we mentioned that an NFL employee helped create the powerful video that emerged on Thursday night, and that prompted the league to capitulate (mostly) to the players’ very specific demands. As it turns out, the NFL employee wasn’t simply doing the players a favor. The NFL employee spearheaded the project.

“I decided, ‘Hey, I’m just going to go rogue here. If I can get one player to buy in, we’ll take a chance at this and see what can happen,’” video producer Bryndon Minter told Jordan Rodrigue and Lindsay Jones of TheAthletic.com, a decision Minter made after deciding that the NFL wasn’t doing enough in response to the murder of George Floyd.

Minter understood the potential consequences.

“I was at peace the whole time,” Minter told TheAthletic.com regarding the possibility of getting fired for it. “I think if I wasn’t at peace to lose my job, I wouldn’t have wanted to go out on a limb like that. . . . I was at peace, I still am at peace.”

Minter’s frustration grew throughout the week, following the issuance of an NFL statement that was widely criticized for stating nothing and an understanding in league circles that management-level employees with the league planned to continue to simply post game highlights on social media, even as protests grew and grew.

“It was incredibly inappropriate,” Minter told TheAthletic.com. “As of Monday night, people thought that was a good move. And that pissed me off so much. . . . When the league, and company we work for, doesn’t simply come out and condemn racism — as simple as that — people start to morally have issues with that.”

Minter recruited Saints receiver Michael Thomas on Wednesday night, reaching him via Instagram. Thomas accepted quickly, suggesting that they persuade “top guys in the league” to contribute. Thomas contacted star players, he got them involved, and they began sending in videos of themselves reading a script drafted by Thomas, Minter, and another NFL employee.

And so Minter took the various videos, edited them into a single 70-second clip, informed a member of management at the NFL that it was coming, and pressed the button.

So what will happen to Minter now?

“We’re proud of him, and his work,” NFL Brian McCarthy told TheAthletic.com.

We all should be proud of the courage that Minter showed, along with the ingenuity and initiative. Michael Thomas deserves credit, too, for recognizing immediately the potential twimpact of the video, for lining up so many of his peers to participate, and for basically (as TheAthletic.com used the term) serving as executive producer for the project.

Hue Jackson says he wanted Colin Kaepernick in 2017

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The 2017 season ended without the Browns winning a game. It began with Browns coach Hue Jackson wanting to sign quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Appearing on ESPN Radio in Cleveland, Jackson said that he wanted to sign Kaepernick after Kaepernick became a free agent in March 2017.

I wanted him,” Jackson said Friday. “It just didn’t work out. Obviously, those things do have to work from a finance, draft, whatever all that is. And that wasn’t my decision.”

That’s not what Jackson said in 2017, however. Multiple weeks into free agency that year, Jackson talked about Kaepernick without ever saying, “I want him.”

We haven’t really discussed Colin,” Jackson said at the time. “There’s other players at this point that we’ve had a lot of conversations about to see if we can put them on our team. Not saying it won’t come up later on. You have to exhaust everything. But at this point he hasn’t come up.”

The Browns eventually selected DeShone Kizer in round two that year, after passing on Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson with the first overall pick in the draft. There were no reports of any interest in Kaepernick by the Browns in 2017, or at any time thereafter.

Then there’s this: In August 2017, Jackson made it clear that he wanted no anthem protests on his team. So even if Jackson actually had any interest in Kaepernick, the fact that he had launched the protests in 2016 would have made it hard to reconcile that viewpoint with Jackson’s desire to not have any protests.

Of course, the truth ultimately may be that Jackson wanted Kaepernick (Jackson wanted to draft Kaepernick in 2011, when Jackson was with the Raiders), that Jackson has no issues with players protesting during the anthem, but that people higher in the organization, possibly all the way to the top, wanted nothing to do with Kaepernick, perhaps due to the potential impact of his presence on the bottom line.

Akiem Hicks: I stood for the anthem because I feared being blackballed

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Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks says many more NFL players would have joined Colin Kaepernick in kneeling for the national anthem, but they worried about losing their jobs.

Hicks said he believes the majority of players who stood for the anthem were thinking that if they didn’t, it would end their careers. And he was one of them.

“At that time when Kaepernick was taking a knee, I had the same thought that 85, 90% of the league thought at that moment: ‘If I get down on one knee in front of this stadium, I am fired,’” Hicks said, via the Chicago Tribune. “’My job, my career, my life is over. I will be blackballed.’ And then to come out on the other end and watch it actually happen to Kaepernick, it just tells me my feelings were real. It was the reality, and hopefully it won’t be going forward.”

After NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell pledged on Friday to support players’ protests, that mindset among players may change. As it should.

President Trump forced Drew Brees to pick a side, and he did

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Before Friday afternoon, Saints quarterback Drew Brees had issued multiple apologies for reiterating his viewpoint on peaceful protests during the national anthem without addressing whether he had abandoned his position, as stated on Wednesday, that he “will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag.” On Friday afternoon, President Donald Trump publicly chastised Brees for doing something he had not yet publicly done.

In response to President Trump’s tweets directed at Brees, Brees realized that he had to pick a side. And he did.

Cajoled and challenged by Trump into doing so, Brees has plainly and publicly abandoned his viewpoint that protests during the national anthem constitute disrespect of the flag.

It’s a significant, and powerful, concession from Brees. His prior public apologies didn’t say that it’s not about the flag, an omission that likely was not accidental as Brees searched for a potential middle ground that allowed him to show empathy to the struggles of the black community when dealing with law enforcement while also reserving the right, in the event that he eventually launches his own political career (some believe that’s inevitable) to re-embrace a position that will ingratiate him to a specific segment of the American population — or, perhaps more importantly, that will not alienate them.

If that’s what was going on (and Occam’s razor is an eternal beacon in these contexts), Brees ditched the effort to straddle the fence and came down clearly, unequivocally, and publicly on the side of an issue that will piss off plenty of people, starting with Donald Trump and the Fifth Avenue band.

Coupled with Commissioner Roger Goodell’s compelling video message from earlier in the evening, Brees’ message to the President amounts to the drawing of a line in the sand by the NFL for a political fight to come, especially as the President tries to pump up his base in order to maximize turnout for the November election. At a time when the NFL already is concerned about the impact of the pandemic on the bottom line, the league now has to worry about whether a reprise of the 2017-style son-of-bitches attack from the President will impact TV ratings, especially if players decide to take a knee in peaceful and silent protest during the anthem in 2020.

In 2018, the NFL and the President quietly established a truce, sparked in transactional fashion by the administration securing a favorable term for the league in a new Canadian trade deal, by Goodell publicly thanking Trump for the favor, and by Trump publicly expressing appreciation for the show of gratitude by Goodell.

That back-and-forth marked significant progress in a relationship that had included Trump calling Goodell in 2015 “a dope” and “a stupid guy.” Those insults likely will be returning in the coming months, with Trump ramping up attacks on players who protest and those who allow them to do so.

“This is a very winning, strong issue for me,” Trump told Cowboys owner Jerry Jones during the initial NFL-DJT battle over the anthem. “Tell everybody, you can’t win this one. This one lifts me.”

Given recent events and polling that reflects their negative consequences on a re-election effort, the President will need any lifts he can find in advance of the election. And, as lifts goes, this one is low-hanging fruit for Trump.

Drew Brees answers President Trump: This is not an issue about the flag

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Drew Brees answered President Donald Trump in a Friday night post on social media. He also answered the question of whether his feelings about kneeling during the national anthem have changed.

The president said the Saints quarterback was right to criticize kneeling during the national anthem and wrong to apologize for his statement.

Brees twice apologized for likening kneeling during the national anthem to disrespecting America.

Brees now says he regrets his comments, which “turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities.”

Brees addressed his post to President Trump, tagging him in the tweet that linked to his Instagram post.

“Through my ongoing conversations with friends, teammates, and leaders in the black community, I realize this is not an issue about the American flag. It has never been,” Brees wrote. “We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities. We did this back in 2017, and regretfully, I brought it back with my comments this week. We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial and prison reform.

“We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history! If not now, then when?

“We as a white community need to listen and learn from the pain and suffering of our black communities. We must acknowledge the problems, identify the solutions, and then put this into action. The black community cannot do it alone. This will require all of us.”

Brees had no choice but to respond after Trump’s tweet Friday. He did and in a way that likely will elicit yet another response from the White House.

But he fulfilled his promise to his teammates and other NFL players to listen and to become part of the solution.

NFL social-media employee helped put together Thursday’s player video

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As it turns out, the video published by the NFL on Friday featuring Commissioner Roger Goodell is only the second-best video in which the league office had a hand this week.

Per a league source, an NFL social-media employee helped put together Thursday’s powerful video featuring multiple players who demanded change.

Saints receiver Michael Thomas asked the NFL employee for assistance, and the NFL employee helped. The end result was one of the most compelling 70 seconds of non-game action ever created in the league’s 100-year history, and the video is contributing to the sense of change that quickly has gone from hanging in the air to settling on the skin of every man, woman, and child in this nation.

The best news is that the NFL is quickly moving to the forefront of the effort. But more work will need to be done both to stay there and to push the envelope even farther.

What does the league’s new position mean for Colin Kaepernick?

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The video published by Commissioner Roger Goodell on Friday regarding the league’s position on racism and peaceful protests represents Goodell’s finest moment in nearly 14 years on the job. But it also raises the stakes on a couple of open issues that now need to be addressed in light of the league’s new position.

“We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people,” Goodell said in the video. “We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier, and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter.”

So what will they, the National Football League, now be doing about the ongoing blackballing of quarterback Colin Kaepernick?

Last weekend, former NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart twisted himself into a knot to defend the league’s treatment of Kaepernick but to blame the teams for not employing Kaepernick in the three-plus years since he became a free agent after sparking peaceful anthem protests aimed at bringing attention to system racism and police brutality against minorities. But here’s the reality, a reality that anyone who has paid any attention to the inner workings of the NFL knows all too well: If the league had really wanted to place Kaepernick on a team, it would have.

Deals get made all the time between the league office and teams, often with copious amounts winking and nodding and/or trading of horses. For whatever reason, the NFL didn’t previously prioritize Kaepernick’s employment sufficiently enough to do a deal like that with one of the league’s teams, hiding behind the notion initially that teams make decisions with an eye toward winning before shifting the narrative to the notion that teams make decisions that suit their best interests (i.e., not scaring away certain customers).

The closest the league came to getting Kaepernick a job happened last November, when the league set up a workout for Kaepernick that ultimately collapsed due to fault on both sides and that otherwise made no sense because any team could bring him in for a workout at any time, and to this day no one has. Will this now be the moment when the league goes the next step, negotiating directly with teams that may want to host a Super Bowl or a draft or who may want something else and offer it as consideration for signing Kaepernick?

That’s how the sausage often gets made. It will be interesting to see whether the league will soon be churning the meat grinder for a main course that would follow its humble-pie appetizer. It also will be interesting to see whether the same players that demanded the league’s most recent gesture will parlay the victory into demanding that the man who tried to spark change years ago, long before the murder of George Floyd and others, should have his career restored.

Roger Goodell: We admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier

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NFL players called out the league’s initial statement from Roger Goodell, which was released Saturday. Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks was the most pointed, saying, “Your statement said nothing.”

The NFL tried again Thursday, saying, “We know that we can and need to do more.”

But a video from some black NFL stars on Thursday, demanding clear messages from the league, showed the NFL it had to do more now.

The NFL released a video from Goodell on Friday night shortly after the league replied to the video on social media, retweeting with the message, “Players, we hear you.”

“It has been a difficult time for our country, in particular, black people in our country,” Goodell said. “First, my condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and all the families who have endured police brutality. We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier, and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter.

“I personally protest with you and want to be part of the much needed change in this country. Without black players, there would be no National Football League, and the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality, and oppression of black players, coaches, fans, and staff. We are listening. I am listening. And I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve and go forward for a better and more united NFL family.”

NFL to players: “We hear you”

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The National Football League has responded to the demands articulated in the video posted by several prominent players on Thursday night.

The league, at its Twitter account, has retweeted the full video, with this message: “Players, we hear you.”

Although the league does not specifically say that the gesture amounts to an acceptance of the request that the league declare the following: “We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systemic oppression of black people. We, the National Football League, admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting. We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter.”

More could be coming. To fully understand this gesture, more may be needed.

The end result quite possibly could be an unequivocal statement that the league actively supports any players who chose to peacefully protest during the national anthem in 2020, and beyond.

Adrian Peterson will “without a doubt” kneel during national anthem

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We already have our first NFL player who isn’t prepared to go along with the advice of President Donald Trump.

Washington running back Adrian Peterson said he definitely planned to kneel during the national anthem this year, following the protest cue of Colin Kaepernick, who knelt to protest police brutality and racial inequality.

“Years ago, seeing Kaepernick taking a knee, now we’re all ready to take a knee together going into this season without a doubt,” Peterson said, via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.

Asked if he will take a knee, Peterson replied: “Without a doubt, without a doubt.”

Trump just tweeted out word that Drew Brees shouldn’t have apologized for this week’s comments, punctuating his message with an all-caps “NO KNEELING!”

But while too many players were willing to leave Kaepernick largely alone (or at least badly outnumbered) last time, there appears to be a new solidarity among players. A number of high profile stars have already produced a video which suggests silence isn’t an option this time.

“So on behalf of the National Football League, this is what we the players would like to hear you state: We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systemic oppression of black people. We, the National Football League, admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting. We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter.”

And while Peterson’s the first one to say it out loud, it doesn’t appear that he’s going to be alone.

Donald Trump: Drew Brees should not have apologized, we all should stand

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President Trump weighed in today on the controversy surrounding Drew Brees, saying the Saints’ quarterback was right to criticize kneeling during the national anthem and wrong to apologize for his statement.

Trump wrote on Twitter that Brees should stand by what he initially said, when he suggested that kneeling during the anthem is disrespecting the country. Brees has apologized but has not taken back his initial statement.

“I am a big fan of Drew Brees. I think he’s truly one of the greatest quarterbacks, but he should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag. OLD GLORY is to be revered, cherished, and flown high,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart. There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag – NO KNEELING!”

Trump has been a frequent critic of NFL players who kneel during the national anthem, and he may see that stance as a winning campaign issue in the fall. Some NFL players are sure to kneel again during the coming season, and Trump is sure to criticize them.

Matt Patricia joins Lions players at march in Belle Isle

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Word on Thursday was that some current Lions players would take part in a Friday march protesting police brutality organized by former Lions running back Joique Bell in Belle Isle, Michigan and they got company from their head coach.

Pictures from the event shared by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press show Matt Patricia is there along with several players, including kick returner Jamal Agnew and linebacker Christian Jones.

Patricia said this week that the team has had “enlightening” meetings with players sharing their experiences this week and said that he wants to turn those conversations into making changes.

“And listening to some thoughts and ideas, I think that’s when you gotta make sure you follow through,” Patricia said, via Albert Breer of SI.com. “You gotta try. And they’re not all gonna work. But if a couple of them work, and you make change, you connect. . . . We gotta try, and we gotta stick with it and we gotta persevere through that. And we talk a lot about leadership and the team driving that leadership. And I think that’s important for us to make sure that it’s an everyday thing.”

Jaguars coach Doug Marrone took part in a team-organized march in Jacksonville on Friday and the Broncos have planned a march for Saturday in Denver.

Kraft family pledges $1 million to groups promoting equity, fighting systemic racism

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The Kraft family said in a statement earlier this week that the United States is in need of “deep healing” in order to end the systemic racism, police brutality and other inequality that has fueled unrest around the country over the last two weeks.

They acknowledged not having the answers, but said that they “know that we want to be part of the change” and the owners of the Patriots announced one way they hope to bring about that change on Friday.

“Over the next 10 months, the Kraft family is pledging $1 million in $100,000 monthly donations to local grassroots organizations — chosen in collaboration with Patriots players — that are fighting for equity, working to end systemic racism and creating meaningful change in our community,” the Krafts said in a video posted to the Patriots’ Twitter account.

Members of the organizations that receive those donations will be invited to speak to the Patriots and other businesses owned by the Krafts in hopes of continuing “to grow in knowledge and awareness.”

Raiders open stadium doors to reveal 85-foot Al Davis torch

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For now, Raiders owner Mark Davis is sweating the looming deadlines for the opening of his team’s new stadium. Eventually, the beads of perspiration on his forehead may be due to the heat from the giant torch that will serve as a permanent tribute to his late father, Al.

The lanai doors to Allegiant Stadium opened for the first time this week, exposing the 85-foot structure that the team will light before every game.

Via the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the torch is made from carbon fiber and aluminum, and it is the largest structure in the world created by a 3D printer.

Actually, the flame from the torch won’t be an actual fire-based flame, and it won’t be projection or a hologram.

“You haven’t seen anything like it anyplace else,” Allegiant Stadium COO Don Webb said.

We haven’t seen anything like the Raiders’ new stadium, which looks like it should have this tune playing in the background.