A coalition of Baltimore native and civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson, the ACLU, the NAACP, the Arab American Institute and more sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday to relay grievances against the league’s new NFL anthem policy, per USA Today’s report.
The rule would compel football players who would kneel in protest during the playing of the national anthem to stay in the locker room during the anthem, rather than be on the field. President Donald Trump is a fan of the policy, igniting league-wide protests last year when he urged NFL owners to fire players who knelt.
“This policy represses peaceful, nondisruptive protest of police violence against unarmed African-Americans and other people of color. It is disappointing that a league built on grit and competition lacks the constitution to stomach a call for basic equality and fairness,” the letter states.
The writers argue that players are protesting not to disrespect the flag but to draw attention to racial injustice between police officers, and other authority figures, and African-Americans, citing statistics that show 63 percent of unarmed people killed are people of color, even though they only make up 37 percent of the country’s population.
The letter says the NFL should “better attuned to the ongoing struggle for racial justice” because 70 percent of players in the NFL are black. But it says the racial disparities in the league, citing stats that 75 percent of head coaches and 100 percent of NFL owners are white — as a possible reason the policy went through.
When Goodell announced the policy in May, he said: “We believe today’s decision will keep our focus on the game and the extraordinary athletes who play it — and on our fans who enjoy it.”
At the time, 53 percent of Americans supported the anthem policy, according to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll. Several players and activists took to social media that day to rebuke it.
“Athletes who choose to kneel during the national anthem to peacefully protest police violence embody the best patriotic ideals of our nation,” the letter states. “Protesters striving to create a more inclusive democracy define the history of this country; there is no better way to honor our national symbols than to fight for equal justice for all.”
You can read the rest of the letter here.