Since Colin Kaepernick started the Take A Knee protest in the NFL, public opinion and the official rhetoric of NFL leadership have shifted dramatically. Share the following sources with your students to explore what has changed—and what hasn’t—since the Take A Knee protest began.
In 2016, after Colin Kaepernick began the Take A Knee protest, only 28% of survey respondents said that they considered his protest “appropriate.”
In 2017, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote the following in a letter:
We live in a country that can feel very divided. Sports, and especially the NFL, brings people together and lets them set aside those divisions, at least for a few hours. The current dispute over the National Anthem is threatening to erode the unifying power of our game, and is now dividing us, and our players, from many fans across the country.
In 2020, 52 percent of survey respondents agreed that it is “OK for NFL players to kneel during the national anthem to protest police killings of African Americans.”
In 2020, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued the following statement:
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.
Once students have finished reading the sources, ask them:
- How has the response to the Take A Knee protest changed over time?
- Why do you think public opinion has shifted significantly on this issue?
Then, tell students that Roger Goodell released his statement after the murder of George Floyd and after pressure from NFL players. Share a portion of the statement from the NFL players with your students. (Note: You can either read the quote below, or play the video in which the players read their statement.)
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.
Ask your students:
- The NFL players asked the leadership to “admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting.” In Roger Goodell’s statement, he states, “We, the NFL, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier.” How does Goodell’s alteration to the statement change its meaning? What do you think the difference is between “silencing” and “not listening”?
- Do you think that a change in public opinion leads to a change in action?