NFL commissioner Roger Goodell: ‘Tragic events’ call for ‘urgent need for action’

He says in a statement in the wake of George Floyd’s death that the league is committed to "continuing the important work to address these systemic issues … with our players, clubs and partners.”
In this Feb. 3 file photo, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a news conference in Miami.
In this Feb. 3 file photo, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a news conference in Miami. [ BRYNN ANDERSON | AP ]
Published May 31, 2020

NEW YORK — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says “there remains an urgent need for action” following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the protests around the country that have followed.

“As current events dramatically underscore, there remains much more to do as a country and as a league,” Goodell said in a statement Saturday. “These tragedies inform the NFL’s commitment and our ongoing efforts. There remains an urgent need for action. We recognize the power of our platform in communities and as part of the fabric of American society.

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“We embrace that responsibility and are committed to continuing the important work to address these systemic issues together with our players, clubs and partners.”

Goodell said the protesters’ reactions “reflect the pain, anger and frustration that so many of us feel.” He also sent condolences to Floyd’s family, as well as those of Breonna Taylor in Louisville and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia.

Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in Minneapolis and across the nation over the past several days to express their frustration and anger at the death of Floyd, an unarmed black man who died Monday while being arrested after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes as Floyd repeatedly stated that he couldn’t breathe.

Floyd was being detained on suspicion of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill.

Chauvin and three other officers were fired the next day, and on Friday, Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death.

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Subsequent charges are possible and charges for the other officers involved are anticipated, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman has said.

Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman, was shot eight times by Louisville narcotics detectives who knocked down her front door March 13. Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, was shot to death after being pursued by two white men while jogging in a neighborhood near Brunswick, Ga. Arbery was the cousin of Lions safety Tracy Walker.

NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith sent a letter to all the league’s players Saturday addressing the events around the country.

“The country is hurting, there is uncertainty and there is danger,” Smith wrote. “It is also clear that the pain, while shared by so many, has a history of being (borne) more by some than others. It is as wrong to be willfully ignorant to this pain as it is to use this pain as cover for inflicting pain on others.”

Union president JC Tretter of the Browns wrote a statement on Twitter, saying he felt “a range of emotions” last week.

“Racism is something that we all must take responsibility to end,” Tretter wrote. “As human beings, we need to identify and challenge prejudice, rather than deny it. Silence in the face of injustice only works to protect and perpetuate that injustice.”