In response to events which have unfolded in the past year, the NFL began playing the so-called “black national anthem” Lift Every Voice and Sing prior to the national anthem at games. The move was made in response primarily to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the hands of a white police officer. The footage of Floyd’s death sparked protests around America, which has led the NFL to pivot to widespread acceptance of the Black Lives Matter movement. The League will also allow players to put the names of victims of police brutality on their uniforms and gear.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had been rather agnostic on the movement prior to Floyd’s death. Former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick had made headlines a few years prior for the take-a-knee movement he had sparked in protest of the national anthem. Goodell and various NFL owners feared that the movement would upset fans and be bad for business. However, in the George Floyd era, Goodell has instituted an obvious policy shift. He will now allow players to make their voices heard in protest of police brutality perpetrated against the black community. The NFL has been no stranger to controversy over the last several years and has been losing fans at a rate that is alarming to the league offices. Goodell hopes with his recent embrace of Black Lives Matter and athlete activism that he can appeal to more fans and project a positive image. It is unclear whether or not this policy will be a business success for the NFL. What is also unclear is how convincing the move will be, as Goodell’s motives can indeed be construed as rather transparent. It may in fact be too late for a change to have any decent impact on the National Football League’s viewership.

However, the move is in keeping with similar policy changes made by other sports leagues. The National Women’s Soccer League has instituted several policies which will free its players to make political statements and to take a stand against police violence. The NWSL has given players the option of staying in the locker room during the national anthem. Major League Soccer has announced that it will simply not play the national anthem before the game. Each of these sports leagues is taking a different approach to confronting the social unrest that has gripped America in recent months. What is clear, however, is that after the death of George Floyd, things will never again be the same. Social justice issues have come to the forefront of America’s public consciousness, and the reaction of the sports and business worlds to this shift has shown just how deep the changes have gone.