President Trump attempted to decipher NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s social justice message in response to the players this weekend. Specifically, Trump wondered whether the commissioner’s messaging gave the players the green light to resume their anthem protests.
In a tweet late Sunday night, Trump asked his nearly 82 million followers whether Goodell was “intimating” that it was “O.K.” for the players to “KNEEL.”
Could it be even remotely possible that in Roger Goodell’s rather interesting statement of peace and reconciliation, he was intimating that it would now be O.K. for the players to KNEEL, or not to stand, for the National Anthem, thereby disrespecting our Country & our Flag?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 8, 2020
On Friday, Goodell responded to a video message featuring several star players in which they demanded that the league admit they were wrong for stopping the anthem protests and affirm that the NFL believes black lives matter.
The commissioner stopped short of saying that the league halted the anthem protests. Instead, choosing to admit that the league did not listen to the players.
“We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people,” Goodell said in response to the police involved death of Minneapolis man George Floyd, which has sparked protests and mass rioting and looting across America. “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, the NFL, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of Black People. We, the NFL, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the NFL, believe Black Lives Matter. #InspireChange pic.twitter.com/ENWQP8A0sv
— NFL (@NFL) June 5, 2020
Clearly Trump is referencing the portion of Goodell’s remarks where he says the league encourages players to “all to speak out and peacefully protest.” One could reasonably infer from those comments that kneeling during the anthem would certainly qualify as a peaceful protest.
Trump went head-to head with the NFL in 2016 when he heavily criticized then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the anthem. Trump criticized other players and the league as the protests grew more and more pervasive during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
The protests tapered off dramatically during the 2018 and 2019 seasons. However, in light of the killing of George Floyd, several recent reports suggest that players intend to resume the protests.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn