Despite Black Lives Matter PR, NFL’s Actions Speak Louder than Words

Image credit: Elaine Thompson / AP

The National Football League (NFL) season has started again, but this time with a couple of twists. Not only is the league risking players’ lives because of coronavirus, its billionaire team owners are claiming to support the Black Lives Matter movement. This is partly because many NFL players are a part of the movement. But also, needing to catch up with the nation’s political climate after the massive George Floyd protests, the NFL has jumped on the bandwagon, pretending to support the Black struggle against police brutality.

To do this, the NFL introduced a series of PR measures, such as playing “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” before all games in the first week of the season. This song is known to many as the “Black National Anthem.” 

The NFL paid artist Alicia Keys to sing “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” producing a music video of her performance. This video features a montage of images depicting slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, and the George Floyd protests to honor the struggles of Black people for equal rights throughout the history of the U.S.

In a completely surreal turn of events, the NFL used old footage of Colin Kaepernick protesing police brutality by kneeling for the national anthem in the video montage. This reflects the new strategy of the NFL, which is to apologize to Kaepernick and pretend that everything is fine. Roger Goodell, the commisioner of the NFL, apologized to Kaepernick in a recent interview, saying, “I wish we had listened earlier, Kaep, to what you were kneeling about and what you were trying to bring attention to.”

Do the NFL and Roger Goodell think people are that stupid? Has he forgotten Kaepernick is still able to play in the NFL, but the league continues to blackball him from the sport because of his political views and actions?

All of this is not lost on Eric Reid, who was Kaepernick’s teammate on the 49ers and who kneeled beside him in 2016 to protest injustice. Reid tweeted that the league’s video was “disingenuous PR,” and that it is “diabolical” that the NFL thinks it can use Kaepernick’s image to pretend to care about systemic racism while simultaneously working to rob him of his career.

Reid is no stranger to Kaepernick’s treatment. He is the newest casualty of the NFL’s punishing of players that speak out. Despite setting Carolina Panthers’ franchise records last season for tackles and sacks by a safety, Eric Reid was not re-signed by the Panthers and has not been signed by another NFL team for this season. Given Reid’s statistical performance on the field last year compared to other safeties in the league, there is no explanation for him not getting a try-out for another team other than being blackballed by the league for being so outspoken—just like Kaepernick. These actions, not words and bogus PR campaigns, continue to show what the NFL truly represents.