NFL Players Ask the League 'What Will It Take?' to Be Heard Over Black Lives Matter

Patrick Mahomes, Odell Beckham Jr. and Michael Thomas are among the NFL stars who have called the league to support the Black Lives Matter movement and to acknowledge it has silenced players who have protested against racism and the oppression of black people.

In the wake of George Floyd's death, a host of NFL players, coaches and executives have been vocal in demanding an end to police brutality and racial discrimination.

Last week, league commissioner Roger Goodell added his voice to the chorus of those demanding justice for Floyd.

"These tragedies inform the NFL's commitment and our ongoing efforts," he said in a statement. "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 response, however, was widely panned as critics pointed to the NFL's handling of Colin Kaepernick's peaceful protests four years ago, when the former San Francisco 49ers knelt during the national anthem to protest against police brutality and racial discrimination.

NFL stars have now joined forces to demand a stronger response from the league, calling for Goodell to grant the players the right to protest.

"It's been 10 days since George Floyd was brutally murdered," the likes of Kansas City Chiefs star Tyrann Mathieu and Cleveland Browns receiver Jarvis Landry said in a Zoom video which was posted on each of the participants' Twitter accounts.

"How many times do we need to ask you to listen to your players?"

"What will it take? For one of us to be murdered by police brutality? What if I was George Floyd?"

Players then go on to list some of the African American victims of police brutality.

"I am George Floyd. I am Breonna Taylor. I am Ahmaud Arbery. I am Eric Garner. I am Laquan McDonald. I am Tamir Rice. I am Trayvon Martin. I am Walter Scott. I am Michael Brown Jr. I am Samuel Dubose. I am Frank Smart. I am Phillip White. I am Jordan Baker."


— Jarvis Juice Landry (@God_Son80) June 5, 2020

The players in the video, which include Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, and New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, then demand public support from the NFL.

"We will not be silenced. We assert our right to peacefully protest. It shouldn't take this long to admit," they continue.

"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.'"

The NFL's stance on racism has been under the spotlight throughout the week.

On Wednesday, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees suggested players who knelt during the national anthem "disrespected the flag of the United States".

A day earlier, Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio claimed racial discrimination was not an issue in the league.

"I don't see racism at all in the NFL, I don't see discrimination in the NFL," Fangio told reporters on a conference call.

"We all live together, joined as one, for one common goal, and we all intermingle and mix tremendously. If society reflected an NFL team, we'd all be great."

Brees, meanwhile, reiterated he would never agree with the protest made famous by Kaepernick.

"I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country," the 41-year-old said in an interview with Yahoo Finance. "Let me just tell what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played and when I look at the flag of the United States."

Brees' views sparked outrage across NFL players, including his own teammates, and the veteran quarterback subsequently issued an apology, acknowledging he had "missed the mark" with his comments.

"In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country," he said.

"They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy."

Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry
Cleveland Browns wide receivers Odell Beckham #13 and Jarvis Landry #80 talk during warmups prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 8, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. The pair are among the players featuring in a video demanding the NFL supports the Black Lives Matter movement. Jason Miller/Getty

Editor's pick

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts