Back in 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made a bold statement against systematic racism in America by kneeling during the National Anthem before the NFL games. At the time, his actions were not supported by the NFL, but today’s climate, surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement, has demanded support from the league. Black Lives Matter gained powerful momentum after the tragic, racially motivated killing of black American citizen George Floyd by white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. The NFL is joining the sweeping national support of Black Lives Matter by contributing to the efforts of diversity and inclusion.
In a recent announcement by the league, it was stated that at the start of 2020-2021 season, players will be allowed to honor victims of police violence and racism by placing decals on the backs of their helmets. Each of the 32 teams will allow players to participate, as well as coaches by displaying patches on their hats. In a memo obtained by ESPN from the league, it states that “Players will be offered a list of names and short biographical information to help guide their decision-making, however, they can also select a victim of systematic racism who is not represented on this list.” Some players have already announced the victims they will be honoring in the upcoming season. Atlanta Falcons guard Jamon Brown stated that he will be wearing the name of Breonna Taylor on his helmet. Breonna Taylor is the 26-year-old black woman who worked as an Emergency Room Technician during the global pandemic, gunned down by police in Louisville during a botched operation.
In addition to the display of decals on players’ helmets, the NFL has committed to stencil the messages “End Racism” and “It Takes All of Us” on the end-zone borders for the home-opening games. The recognized Black National Anthem “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” will also be featured during opening ceremonies. Many players will further show their support of the Black Lives Matter movement by following Kaepernick’s example and taking a knee during playing of the National Anthem. The league is also promising to contribute to frontline workers who are saving lives and offering dedicated service during the COVID-19 crisis. A message thanking frontline workers will also be displayed on the seat coverings between the stadium’s 30-yard lines.
The NFL shared a public service announcement about the killing of Stephon Clark on Twitter to continue their support of racial equality. Stephon Clark is the name of the 22-year-old unarmed black man who was fatally gunned down by police in his grandmother’s backyard in Sacramento back in 2018. The NFL is now helping to raise awareness in communities in the hopes of bringing an end to systematic racism by providing the “Inspire Change” series. The public service announcement on Stephon Clark is the fifth video in this series, produced by Jay-Z’s athlete and artist management company, Roc Nation.