NFL commissioner apologises for 'not listening' over racism

Trump furious after NFL chief admits he was wrong to oppose Colin Kaepernick

Donald Trump has railed against ‘take a knee’ protests since they began in 2016

Donald Trump has fired off an angry tweet targeting the head of the National Football League (NFL), Roger Goodell, after he apologised for not listening to black players’ “take a knee” protests.

His scornful response comes after years of condemning the protests, and just as they take on renewed significance during protests over the killing of George Floyd.

In a video message at the end of last week, Mr Goodell told followers that “We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier, and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.

“We, the National Football League, believe Black Lives Matter. I personally protest with you, and want to be part of the much-needed change in this country.”

Mr Trump, who has yet to make any detailed statement on police brutality and racism, responded with disdain. “Could it be even remotely possible,” he wrote, “that in Roger Goodell’s rather interesting statement of peace and reconciliation, he was intimating that it would now be O.K. for the players to KNEEL, or not to stand, for the National Anthem, thereby disrespecting our Country & our Flag?”

The president’s dig at Mr Goodell came after another scornful attack on an NFL figure, this time quarterback Drew Brees, who apologised last week after he appeared to complain that the “take a knee” protests were disrespectful to the flag.

The response from Mr Trump was strident. “There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag – NO KNEELING!”

The president also retweeted a conservative candidate who juxtaposed Mr Trump walking from the White House to St John’s Church – having had his path cleared of protesters by tear gas – with a picture of Joe Biden kneeling in solidarity. The tweet read: “Leaders Lead. Cowards kneel.”

The “take a knee” protests, which began with player Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the national anthem before a game in 2016, have been a political flashpoint from the outset, with many on the conservative right saying that they show nothing but disrespect for the anthem and flag.

Since Mr Floyd was killed by a policeman kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes, protesters and public figures have been seen kneeling silently at demonstrations in solidarity with him and with all black victims of police brutality.

During his 2016 campaign, Mr Trump repeatedly vented his anger at Mr Kaepernick’s protests, saying in one interview that “You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”

At the time, the NFL imposed a rule saying that players could choose to be off the field during the anthem, but that those who did go out during it would have to stand or face a penalty.

It was for moves like this that Mr Goodell apologised in his remarks, in which he also accepted that the NFL has more work to do.

“Without black players, there would be no National Football League. And the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality, and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff.

“We are listening, I am listening, and I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices, and others on how we can improve and go forward for a better and more united NFL family.”

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