(AP) – NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reiterated the league’s support for players fighting for racial justice and protesting police violence.
Citing a police officer shooting Jacob Blake in the back on Aug. 23 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Goodell said the incident has “brought forth more feelings of anger, frustration, anguish, fear for many of us in the NFL family.”
The investigation into the police shooting of Blake, who is Black, is ongoing.
“The NFL stands with the Black community, the players, clubs and fans,” Goodell said Tuesday. “Confronting recent systemic racism with tangible and productive steps is absolutely essential. We will not relent in our work. We will redouble our efforts to be catalysts for the urgent and sustainable change that our society and communities so desperately need. I’m so proud of everyone across our league and others who have taken a stand using their voices and platforms to continue to shine the spotlight on things that must change. By listening and working and understanding with our players, we built the foundation for tangible change through our Inspire Change initiative.”
NFL end zones will be inscribed this season with two slogans: “It Takes All Of Us” on one end line, “End Racism” on the other. As part of its social justice awareness initiatives, the NFL also will allow similar visuals on helmets and caps.
The league announced earlier this summer it is committing $250 million over 10 years to social justice initiatives. Goodell pointed out the NFL Votes campaign and encouraged teams to offer the use of stadiums as polling centers.
Troy Vincent, the league’s executive vice president of football operations said players have the right to sit out or protest games. Teams across several sports leagues postponed games last week following Blake’s shooting.
“The players want to see us leveraging the influence to hold officers that are bad officers to be held accountable,” Vincent said. “That access to meeting the (district attorneys) and access to meeting with local officials to truly address reform and training. … There has been a lot of work done but we still keep seeing the same image play out on television of unarmed black men being shot down.”
Vincent said he’s encouraged to see a shift among NFL owners to stand with players and support their fight.
“I ask my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to allow me to be a bridge-builder,” Vincent said. “And I try to stay on the premises of educating whether that’s a player or a club owner. I just speak to humanity. And I would say in my dealings with club owners, they all have a heart. … I do believe that some of the things that we have seen transpire, they have seen transpire, it does something to the heart. And we understand we’re not asking, the players are not asking, for anything out of context and just asking for accountability to be administered and that people see this burden that many live, that an entire community, in particular the Black community, that these injustices are happening
“I do believe that the club owners are at a place over the last few years, it’s taken some a little longer than others, but it becomes a heart issue. And they do have an appreciation for humanity and they understand that we have to do this together. The players can’t do it alone. The players understand that they can’t do without club owners. Club owners understand that it takes all of us to get to where we want to get as a better society.”