On June 4, 2020, some of the biggest stars in the National Football League — Saquon Barkley, Tyrann Mathieu, DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham Jr., and Patrick Mahomes among others — released a video in which they call upon the league to make a formal statement condemning racism and the systematic oppression of Black people in the wake of the murder of George Floyd who was killed in May 2020 at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers. Bryndon Minter, an NFL social employee, came up with the idea to produce this video in order to channel frustration felt by NFL players and employees alike over the league’s ongoing lack of support and silence on matters of police brutality and racial justice that had persisted since 2016 when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first took a knee in protest during the singing of the National Anthem. Minter risked his job by producing this video outside of the normal channels and protocols for media production at the NFL. In the video, the players align themselves with victims of police brutality by stating “I am George Floyd. I am Breonna Taylor. I am Ahmaud Arbery…” and name many other Black people who have become victims of police violence. The players offer a clear statement for the league to adopt, insisting the league take responsibility for its past actions in blocking players from peacefully protesting. Shortly after the players’ video went viral, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement in which he underscored the NFL’s support of programs and initiatives that address systemic racism, but he did not adopt the players’ words nor did he address the specific concerns expressed in their protest video.
What do you notice about the language the players use to express themselves? How do they align themselves with victims of police brutality?
How does the editing of the video support what the players are saying? Consider the juxtaposition of a single shot with only one player in the frame and a shot with multiple players in the frame.
70% of players in the NFL are Black. Why do you think the NFL failed to support the players sooner when the vast majority of them are affected by racial injustice?
This video is an example of grassroots media production (where a small group circumvented institutional protocols and power structures to get this video made). What do you think about this media approach for making change?
What other examples of athlete activism have you seen? On an international scale? National? Local? In your school? How might celebrity status (in this video) influence what messages are heard and by whom?