“There are a lot of good guys out there but when it comes to them maybe having sincere hearts, yet also being concerned about their bottom lines and catering to sponsors and things like that, that’s what so far in the history of the NFL has out-weighed a good conscience”
By Cameron Hogwood and Richard Graves
Last Updated: 13/06/20 8:32am
It has been almost three weeks since the death of unarmed black man George Floyd in US police custody, and yet the pursuit of racial justice from NFL owners is a far cry from the heartfelt commitment to the cause exhibited by their players.
Jacksonville Jaguars players marched to the local sheriff’s department to protest against police brutality, while 70 players, coaches and other members of staff from the Denver Broncos lead thousands on a Black Lives Matter protest.
Michael Thomas, Saquon Barkley and Deshaun Watson were among a host of the NFL’s biggest stars to release a powerful video calling on the league to “admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting”.
Having come under criticism for an initial statement, Roger Goodell released a video apologising to the players and condemning the systematic oppression of black people.
NFL Network’s Steve Wyche feels strongly that more can be done.
“There are 32 owners, not one owner has come out and said ‘black lives matter’, not one owner has come out and said ‘the NFL could not exist without black players’ and there is going to be a lot of owners that would never say that,” Wyche told Sky Sports News’ Richard Graves.
“So for Roger Goodell to do this, he clearly did not take the temperature of the owners, he took the temperature of his workplace, his employees, of the players, of the backbone and the labour that generates the wealth for these owners.
“When he said ‘I am personally protesting with you’. What I’m really waiting to see is when these teams come together how the individual teams and certain markets are going to respond because there are some places in this country where you talk about Black Lives Matter and people are not going to want to hear that.
“Are they going to cancel their season tickets or come to games? There’s a lot more owners concerned about that than they are about the feelings of their workforce or their employees.”
There have been some who have taken a step beyond mere words, with Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti donating $1m to social justice reform and New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Gayle Benson introducing a Social Justice Leadership coalition with players from across both teams.
San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York has also donated $1m to local and national organisations that are committed to change, and Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper stopped the organisation’s relationship with long-term partner CPI Security after CEO Ken Gill downplayed police brutality.
Among those not to openly speak up is Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who had condemned players that knelt during the national anthem in protest of racial injustice back in 2017.
Wyche continued: “That’s why I thought it was interesting that the Carolina Panthers severed ties with the security agency that protects their stadium and things like that when the head of the security agency was basically dismissing it like ‘I don’t want to hear that stuff’.
“And the Carolina Panthers, which is a very conservative market, said ‘we’re done with you, we can find somebody else’, so instead of teams reacting to their sponsors or their contractors, putting pressure on them, the Carolina Panthers put the pressure on their contractors.
“We haven’t seen that before.”
Jones was notably the first owner to state he would bench a player for protesting during the anthem, a viewpoint that drew praise from President Donald Trump, who had also called for teams to fire players that protested.
The 77-year-old held the opinion that kneeling was a sign of ‘disrespect’ to the flag, matching that of Trump whose inaugural committee Jones and eight other team owners had contributed significant sums of money to, according to USA Today‘s Steve Berkowitz.
After commissioner Goodell listened and publicly responded to the hurt of the players that drive the NFL, the silence from multiple owners is deafening.
“Jed York the owner of the 49ers has been pretty outspoken, there have been a couple of owners who a lot of people have seen their hearts based on their action,” said Wyche.
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“They’ve said things, put up press releases ‘we’ve got to do better’, nothing has happened. So I think scepticism over most owners over a release is legitimate and we’ll see in a few months, years from now if there’s really meaning behind some of the statements that have been put out.
“There are a lot of good guys out there but when it comes to them maybe having sincere hearts, yet also being concerned about their bottom lines and catering to sponsors and things like that, that’s what so far in the history of the NFL has out-weighed a good conscience.”