Goodell wants players to have a ‘voice’ in volatile Election Year

Goodell wants players to have a ‘voice’ in volatile Election Year


In football, the line of scrimmage is where the “rubber meets the road.” In politics, it occurs inside the voting booth. Roger Goodell’s recent comments on politics and sports are proof that the league could be on the verge of repeating the same mistakes it did during the Colin Kaepernick era, as the presumed Presidential race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump is destined to be another ugly chapter in American history.

A few weeks ago, Roger Goodell said something really important at his annual Super Bowl press conference that everybody seemed to ignore. He talked about politics.

“In a very contentious political cycle getting ready to come up, would you rather players just kind of stay out of it, or did that five year-period [the past] teach you or give you comfort that ‘voice’ is good? That you prefer players to have voice?” asked (ESPN) Andscape’s Bill Rhoden.

For context, there was no one better than the veteran columnist who authored the classic book, Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete, to ask the NFL Commissioner that question in that setting.

“I do prefer our players have voices,” Goodell responded. “And I would tell you that I learned an awful lot from our players. Not just during that period of time, but every single day.

“The one thing that all of our players and clubs have gotten behind is NFL Votes. We all think it’s really important for us to encourage our fans and communities to get out and vote.

“That is the one thing about our democracy that’s really important.”

In 2020, the league launched NFL Vote. It’s an initiative that supports and encourages civic engagement and focuses on voter education, voter registration, and voter activation. It was one of the many DEI programs that were started after George Floyd.

White guilt was at an all-time high back then.

According to Goodell’s words, we can gather that the league will attempt to make the program a priority again as we approach Election Day — which is in the middle of the season. But, if you look a little closer at what Goodell said that day on stage at the Super Bowl, it’s clear that he’s unprepared.

“I do prefer our players have voices.”

But, what kind of voices would you prefer, Roger?

If someone like Nick Bosa — with the reputation he’s created for himself — uses his voice, which would be for things that are against what the NFL “claims” they don’t stand for, the league would be put in an interesting spot. And if Jim Harbaugh decided to make his former quarterback (Colin Kaepernick) an honorary captain for one game with the Chargers — like he did at Michigan — and members of the team decided to kneel with him during the national anthem, would the league be prepared to not do something dumb?

Probably not.

When Goodell talked about encouraging people to get out and vote, he didn’t say how they should vote — which is just as important as casting a ballot. And when he touched on our democracy, he didn’t address the fact that there will be things on the ballot that tear away at the fabric of it.

Right now, Birmingham (Ala.) Mayor Randall Woodfin is in the news for tweeting that he would, “Have no problem organizing Black parents and athletes to attend other institutions outside of the state where diversity and inclusion are prioritized.” In that same state, and in the South, IVF is a hot topic, as a national abortion ban could potentially come into play if certain things happen on Election Day. And in Texas, a judge allowed a school to uphold its suspension of a Black teenager for the length of his hair.

These are all things that affect or could play a huge role in the lives of the majority of the people who make up the NFL’s workforce. Saying that people should vote isn’t enough if you aren’t going to advise them on who’s the better choice for “democracy.”

That’s the thing about politics. You have to be informed and understand the details to discuss them. And that has never been Goodell’s or the league’s strong point when it comes to racism, sexism, social issues, or politics.

In other words, that rubber isn’t meeting the road.

Besides, let’s not act like one of the candidates hasn’t been a thorn in the NFL’s side for a long time, and called players in the league who kneeled “sons of bitches” that should be fired. Nothing about what the NFL has recently done or what Goodell said a few weeks makes it seem as if either of them are prepared for the rest of the year, and beyond.

Around the time NFL Vote was launched, Goodell apologized to Kaepernick. “I wish we had listened earlier, Kaep, to what you were kneeling about and what you were trying to bring attention to,” the commissioner said. “We had invited him in several times to have the conversation, to have the dialogue. I wish we had the benefit of that, we never did. We would have benefited from that, absolutely.”

Goodell said this on Emmanuel Acho’s YouTube show, Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man, which is key, as Acho is who white people run to given that he loves to make them comfortable so that they can have conversations that are the furthest thing from uncomfortable. It’s why Goodell’s apology isn’t as powerful as it seems given where it was made and who the audience was.

All these years later, Goodell still hadn’t said anything of substance on similar matters until he was asked by Bill Rhoden a few weeks ago. And once you put it all together, it’s a lot easier to understand while we’re probably headed for an election cycle in which Goodell and the NFL are willingly going to get punked by Trump and Republicans again.


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