The NFL previously released a statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, writing, "We will continue using our platform to challenge the injustice around us"

By Gabrielle Chung
July 02, 2020 11:15 PM
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The NFL is looking to make some changes in recognition of racial injustice.

The sports league is planning to play "Lift Every Voice and Sing" — a song often referred to as the Black national anthem — before the "The Star-Spangled Banner" during every game on the opening week of the 2020 season, according to reports by the NFL Network, USA Today and NPR on Thursday, all of which cited a source with knowledge of the discussions.

The league is also considering allowing players to wear helmet decals or jersey patches recognizing those who have been impacted by systemic racism and police brutality, NFL Network's Steve Wyche reported.

Wyche said that the decision to wear decals or patches would be left up to individual players, though teams could also decide as a whole.

Spokespeople for the NFL and National Football League Players Association did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

In June, in the wake of nationwide protest over systemic racism, the NFL released a statement in support of Black Lives Matter, writing: "This is a time of self-reflection for all – the NFL is no exception. We stand with the Black community because Black Lives Matter."

"Through Inspire Change, the NFL, Players and our partners have supported programs and initiatives throughout the country to address systemic racism. We will continue using our platform to challenge the injustice around us," continued the statement.

In addition to the league's statement supporting Black Lives Matter, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell formally apologized for ignoring players who previously kneeled during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality. However, he did not explicitly mention Colin Kapernick — the former San Francisco 49ers star who helped to start the movement in 2016 — in his apology.

Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid kneel in protest during the national anthem on September 12, 2016, in Santa Clara, California.
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"It has been a difficult time for our country," Goodell said in the video, posted to Instagram. "In particular, Black people in our country. First, my condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and all the families who have endured police brutality."

"We, the National Football League, condemn racism and systematic oppression of Black people," he continued. "[We] admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest."

The #TakeAKnee movement was famously sparked by Kaepernick when he refused to stand during the national anthem before NFL games in protest of police brutality and racial injustice in the United States. Many players in the league, and across other sports, joined in the on the protest by kneeling or participating with their own variations.

In May 2018, NFL owners voted unanimously to approve a policy that would fine teams for players who kneel during the national anthem. But that decision was later postponed for a later date, according to Rolling Stone, after the Miami Dolphins threatened to fine players for four games if they took a knee.

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"We, the National Football League, believe Black Lives Matter," Goodell said in his video statement. "I personally protest with you and want to be part of the much-needed change in this country. Without Black players, there would be no National Football League, and the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of Black players, coaches, fans and staff."

"We are listening, I am listening, and I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve and go forward a better and more united NFL family," he added.

Currently, the 2020 season is scheduled to start on Sept. 10, with Super Bowl LIV champs the Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans.

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.