NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Ridiculed For George Floyd Statement, Is Reminded of Colin Kaepernick's Treatment

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has been criticized for what many have perceived to be a hypocritical response in the wake of George Floyd's death.

The 46-year-old died on 25 May after being arrested in Minneapolis. His death sparked widespread protests across the U.S. after videos emerged of a white police officer kneeling on the neck of Floyd, who is black, for almost 10 minutes while arresting him.

In the video, the victim can be heard saying he's unable to breathe and pleading with officers, before seemingly losing consciousness.

On Saturday, the NFL joined a growing chorus of players, coaches and teams to express sadness at Floyd's death and support for protesters who have taken to the streets over the last six days to demand an end to police brutality.

"The NFL family is greatly saddened by the tragic events across our country," Goodell said in statement. "The protesters' reactions to these incidents reflect the pain, anger and frustration that so many of us feel."

The NFL commissioner said Floyd's death and the ensuing protests were a reminder there was plenty of work to be done to bridge the racial divide in the country.

"As current events dramatically underscore, there remains much more to do as a country and as a league," he continued.

"These tragedies inform the NFL's commitment and our ongoing efforts. There remains an urgent need for action. We recognize the power of our platform in communities and as part of the fabric of American society."

Goodell's words went down like a lead balloon in some quarters, with critics pointing out that as Colin Kaepernick began his peaceful protest four years ago the league commissioner stood against the same protesters he backed on Saturday.

Kaepernick first knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial discrimination in 2016. The gesture transformed the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback into a global icon, but split public opinion in the U.S. and contributed to him being ostracized by the league.

He last played in the NFL in the same year, before becoming a free agent. When he was not offered a tryout by any of the 32 franchises, Kaepernick sued the owners for colluding to keep him out of the league, before reaching a settlement with the NFL in February 2019.

"Save the bulls**t," Houston Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills tweeted in response to Goodell's statement.

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay described Goodell's statement as "hollow and disingenuous," suggesting the NFL's conduct over the Kaepernick saga spoke louder than the statement they released at the weekend.

"This is a lie," she tweeted. "Your actions show who you are. You've done nothing but the exact opposite of what you describe here. Keep Mr. Floyd's name out of your mouth."

Best-selling crime novelist Don Winslow echoed DuVernay's sentiment, criticizing the NFL for ostracizing Kaepernick.

"A group of billionaire white guys who destroyed @Kaepernick7's career and punished and hurt the careers of black players protesting have no credibility to send this message," he tweeted.

In December last year, Goodell said the league had "moved on" from Kaepernick, after the former 49ers quarterback moved a workout the NFL had organized a month earlier.

In November, the league surprisingly organized a tryout for the former Nevada alumni, at the Atlanta Falcons' training facility, inviting all 32 franchises to attend.

Kaepernick, however, moved the workout to a high school stadium approximately 50 miles away at the last minute, maintaining he had done so to ensure media could attend.

"It was about opportunity, a credible opportunity," Goodell said at the Winter League Meetings. "He chose not to take it, and I understand that. The league has moved on."

Goodell wasn't alone in drawing the ire of the public at the weekend, with 49ers chief executive Jed York also on the receiving end of some criticism.

On Sunday, York announced the franchise had donated $1 million to local and national organizations working for social change.

"People throughout our country are hurting," he said. "Emotions are raw, and rightfully so. Heinous acts have been committed in recent weeks. Before we are able to realize impactful change, we must first have the courage and compassion as human beings to come together and acknowledge the problem: black men, women, children and other oppressed minorities continue to be systematically discriminated against."

The move was quickly shut down by Eric Reid, who played with Kaepernick in San Francisco and was among the first players to support his then-teammate's protest.

"Nobody wants your money Jed," Reid tweeted. "We want justice. We've always wanted justice. Y'all are truly diluted."

Like Kaepernick, Reid sued the NFL but returned to pro football in 2018 and has spent the last two seasons with the Carolina Panthers, before being released at the end of the last campaign.

"One day y'all will realize that truth and justice are the answer," he added. "I see that a lot of y'all think that it takes money to get justice. It does not. It takes money to facilitate injustice. Justice is easy, the system chooses not to give it.

NFL, Roger Goodell
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks to the media during a press conference prior to Super Bowl LIV at the Hilton Miami Downtown on January 29 in Miami, Florida. Cliff Hawkins/Getty