NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement Saturday that “there remains an urgent need for action” following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, while NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith sent a letter to all players to address the current state of what he called a “hurting” country.
Floyd, who is black, died Monday after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, kneeled on his neck for several minutes. Floyd’s death has shaken the Minneapolis community and sparked protests in cities across the United States.
Chauvin was arrested Friday afternoon and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, local authorities announced.
“The NFL family is greatly saddened by the tragic events across our country,” Goodell said in his statement. “The protesters’ reactions to these incidents reflect the pain, anger and frustration that so many of us feel.”
“As current events dramatically underscore, there remains much more to do as a country and as a league,” Goodell said. “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. We embrace that responsibility and are committed to continuing the important work to address these systemic issues together with our players, clubs and partners.”
In his post, Tretter wrote, “The issue of changing systemic racism and individual prejudice in our country is long overdue.
“As a white man, I will never fully understand the daily experiences and fears that people of color in this country live with. … Some may feel hesitant to speak out as they don’t know what to say or how to do it. Your individual feat of saying the wrong thing is insignificant compared to the actual issues that need addressing. Racism is something that we all must take responsibility to end. As human beings, we need to identify and challenge prejudice, rather than deny it. Silence in the face of injustice only works to protect and perpetuate that injustice.”
— JC Tretter (@JCTretter) May 30, 2020
Smith’s message to players acknowledged the pain of the current situation, “shared by so many” but with “a history of being [borne] more by some than others.”
“It is as wrong to be willfully ignorant to this pain as it is to use this pain as cover for inflicting pain on others,” Smith wrote. “It is impossible to not take this personally. We should take it personally. We have the luxury of working in a great business, but that business takes place in our neighborhoods, involves our families and relies on the support of our fellow citizens.”
Smith also said in his letter that during times like this, he seeks “the guidance of those who lived through tough, if not tougher times as a guidepost for the hope I need to have to survive,” citing James Baldwin as someone “who always managed to express the reality of justifiable rage and the imbalance and injustice of a system, with the need to engage it with unrelenting truth and hope.”
Smith went on to quote Baldwin, noting that he “is still right when he said that, ‘It is not a romantic matter. It is the unutterable truth: All men are brothers. That’s the bottom line.'”
“This is also the beautiful truth about our locker rooms and gives me hope that, despite the imperfections of America, we can be an example of a more perfect union,” Smith concluded his letter, while offering support to those who need it.
As Tretter closed his post on Twitter, he delivered a message he hoped would lead to action and eventually to change.
“People of color have long tried to communicate what racism in America feels like for them. We can all be better listeners, validators and friends,” Tretter wrote. “Our work will never be finished until every American feels safe, free and accepted in our country.”