NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday he and the league strongly support players expressing their opposition to inequality and police misconduct, saying the league’s leadership was wrong for ignoring players earlier and that it now endorses their peaceful protests.

“We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people,” Goodell said in a video released by the NFL. “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.”

Goodell’s message came amid the nationwide protests over George Floyd’s death and with the controversy over NFL players’ protests during the national anthem having been reignited this week by comments by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. President Trump said earlier Friday that Brees should not have apologized for saying he opposes players protesting during the anthem, calling such protests disrespectful to the flag and country.

Goodell also spoke after a group of prominent NFL players released a video Thursday night, calling for the league to express much of what Goodell expressed Friday.

“It has been a difficult time for our country,” Goodell said in the video. “In particular, black people in our country. First, my condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and all the families who have endured police brutality.”

The protest movement began in 2016 when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the anthem, hoping to bring attention to racial inequality and police mistreatment of African Americans. Kaepernick has been unsigned since the end of that season.

“I personally protest with you and want to be part of the much-needed change in this country,” Goodell said. “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.”

Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Odell Beckham Jr. and Ezekiel Elliott were among the players who released the video Thursday night about Floyd’s death.

“What if I was George Floyd?” players said on the video. Later, they said: “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 systematic 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.’ ”

According to a person familiar with the situation, a member of the league office’s social media team was aware the video was being made after being contacted by one of the players.

The league wrote Friday on its Twitter account: “Players, we hear you,” with the video attached.

Kaepernick settled a collusion grievance that he filed accusing the league and franchise owners of conspiring improperly to keep him out the NFL. Goodell said repeatedly that teams made their own decisions about whether to sign Kaepernick. Attempts by the league to stage a tryout for Kaepernick in front of a large number of teams last year unraveled over disagreements about the terms of the tryout, and Kaepernick instead held his own workout for a smaller number of teams at an Atlanta-area high school.

The NFL and owners reached a deal with a group of players on a social justice initiative in the aftermath of a 2017 controversy, intensified by comments made by Trump at a political rally over players’ protests and the anthem policy.

Fans’ attention on the NFL’s anthem policy gradually waned as fewer players protested and Trump mostly abandoned the topic after intensifying the controversy in the fall of 2017. The owners and league discarded a modified anthem policy to which they’d agreed in May 2018. That policy gave players the option to remain in the locker room for the anthem and empowered the league to fine a team for any protest by a player during the anthem but left it up to the team to decide whether to discipline a player for a protest. It was shelved after the NFL Players Association filed a grievance and contemplated litigation and following a report that the Miami Dolphins were leaving open the possibility of suspending a player for conduct detrimental to the team for a protest.

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