(EDITOR'S NOTE: The most important story in the United States in the past week was the death of George Floyd and the ensuing violence that broke out across the country. We have decided to run a separate Week in Quotes column dedicated to that issue. Obviously, due to the nature of the topic being discussed, we must bend our typical "no politics" rule in the comments on this article, but we ask our readers to please be civil with each other. You can find our normal column looking back at the other quotes of May here.)
THE NFL'S OFFICIAL STATEMENT, ACCOMPANIED BY PLAYERS' RESPONSES
"The NFL family is greatly saddened by the tragic events across our country. The protesters' reactions to these incidents reflect the pain, anger and frustration that so many of us feel.
"Our deepest condolences go out to the family of Mr. George Floyd and to those who have lost loved ones, including the families of Ms. Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and Mr. Ahmaud Arbery, the cousin of Tracy Walker of the Detroit Lions.
"As current events dramatically underscore, there remains much more to do as a country and as a league. 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 the American society. We embrace that responsibility and are committed to continuing the important work to address these systemic issues together with our players, clubs and partners."
-- The statement released by commissioner Roger Goodell via NFL social media channels. (NFL via Twitter)
"Save the bullsh*t."
-- Houston Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills responded directly to the NFL's Twitter account. (Kenny Stills via Twitter)
"I'm looking forward to 'Songs of the Season 2.0.'"
-- Safety Eric Reid's comment is in reference to a 2019 NFL initiative where the NFL would "highlight superstars and emerging artists of all genres and will showcase musicians whose songs will be released each month during the season," (according to the NFL's announcement). The songs would be released on streaming platforms, and all proceeds would go to Inspire Change. (Eric Reid via Twitter)
"Your statement said nothing. Your league is built on black athletes. Vague answers do nothing. Let the players know what you're ACTUALLY doing. And we know what silence means."
-- Minnesota Vikings linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, members of their team's social justice committee, sent out identical Tweets in response to the NFL's statement. They followed up this joint statement by each tweeting a picture of the NFL logo with the words: "WE WANT ANSWERS." (New York Post)
A FULL STATEMENT FROM MIAMI DOLPHINS HEAD COACH BRIAN FLORES
"I've had the privilege of being a part of many different circles that have included some very powerful and influential people of all different races and genders. The events of the last few weeks have brought some of the memories of those conversations back to light. I vividly remember the Colin Kaepernick conversations. 'Don't ever disrespect the flag' was the phrase that I heard over and over again. This idea that players were kneeling in support of social justice was something some people couldn't wrap their head around. The outrage that I saw in the media and the anger I felt in some of my own private conversations caused me to sever a few long-standing friendships.
"Most recently, I've had conversations about incentivizing teams for hiring minorities. Again, there was some outrage in the media and talks that this would cause division amongst coaches, executives, and ownership. I bring these situations up because I haven't seen the same OUTRAGE from people of influence when the conversation turns to Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and most recently George Floyd. Many people who broadcast their opinions on kneeling or on the hiring of minorities don't seem to have an opinion on the recent murders of these young black men and women. I think many of them QUIETLY say that watching George Floyd plead for help is one of the more horrible things they have seen, but it's said amongst themselves where no one can hear. Broadcasting THAT opinion clearly is not important enough.
"I lead a group of young men who have the potential to make a real impact in this world. My message to them and anyone else who wants to listen is that honesty, transparency, and empathy go a long way in bringing people together and making change. I hope that the tragedies of the last few weeks will open our hearts and minds to a better way of communicating and hopefully create that change."
AKIEM HICKS SHARES HIS STORY
"I feel like I've been censored my whole life. So for me to feel like I have to keep people at ease, to make sure there's a calm while I'm in the room, those are natural things to me. And these things were taught to me in a way. Because at an early age, not just being a larger kid, but a larger black kid, I was seen as the antagonist in a lot of situations. I was seen as the bully. I was seen as a person, you know, just not in the best light.
"Developing my mindset going forward, I understood always that I had to make other people feel comfortable before myself. I'm going to continue to do that. I'm going to continue to make sure people feel comfortable around me. Is it unfortunate that I have to live that way? Call it what you want. But I do it because that's how I'm able to move through society and have people be OK with me.
"I don't put any extra weight on anyone. I'd rather carry it myself, personally. I'm not going to push anybody in any direction. I want your path to take you there naturally. Whatever course you're on, let it take you there. Whatever you feel, whatever you hear, whatever touches you in a way, I'll let that be your moment.
"What I will say about our team [is] we do a good job, I think, of stopping separation, keeping guys together. I'll give you an example. We'd come into the cafeteria, and let's talk about a position group like the tight ends, who have mainly been Caucasian. They'll be sitting at a table and there will be three guys of the same ethnicity and they're having lunch together, and you're not thinking anything of it.
"But we have guys on the team that will break those barriers. I'll go sit with them. Danny Trevathan will go sit with them. Now this table isn't just one [race]. We're all together in this. That's something that I noticed Kyle Long do. He didn't care who was sitting at the table, he was coming in there and having a conversation with whatever ethnicity was at the table and that it something that is part of our organization that starts at the top."
-- Chicago Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks discusses his lived experience growing up black and the racial dynamics of the Bears locker room. (Chicago Sun-Times)
"We signed Mike Glennon."
-- Hicks also argued that quarterback Colin Kaepernick was refused a chance in the NFL because he protested police brutality. The biggest evidence of that, Hicks argued, was in the Bears' quarterback signing that offseason. When pressed on it, Hicks doubled down, saying "You heard that, huh? Yeah, I said that. It as a feeling." (Chicago Sun-Times)
ANTHONY LYNN GIVES MORE THAN A STATEMENT
"I've read some good statements. I read Brian Flores' from the Dolphins and I agree 100% with him. I read Doc Rivers' statement and those guys spoke from the heart. I think statements are needed to bring awareness to the situation. But I want to do something too. I don't want to just put [a statement] out there because it's the right thing to do. I want change. … So I guess it starts with having this conversation and talking things out. In 1992 I remember watching L.A. burn and here we are in 2020 and I'm watching it again and it just hit me, nothing has changed.
"I haven't done anything to make this a better place for my son. I remember having the talk with him when he was 16 about how to handle police and then at age 30 I called him up and just had the talk with him again because I'm so scared. I want to do something but to be honest with you, I don't know what that is."
-- Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn participated in a lengthy interview with LZ Granderson of the Los Angeles Times, beginning with an explanation as to why he didn't just simply make a statement.
"People completely misunderstood Colin [Kaepernick] and what he was trying to do. People talked about disrespecting the flag … the flag covers a lot -- patriotism and civil rights and other things. And Colin was speaking out against the injustice and a lot of people didn't catch on to that because it was happening during the national anthem. They thought it was disrespectful to the flag. I was surprised by the number of people who didn't know why he was protesting. I got letters from people. I had people walk up to me and ask, 'Coach, what are you going to do if someone on your team protests?' And I had to explain to them that Colin is taking a knee for criminal justice [reform] and police brutality and once you broke it down, they were like, 'Oh, we didn't know that. We thought he was protesting the flag.' And that was the case for a lot of people I came across.
"A lot of people for their own political reasons pushed out the wrong narrative. A lot of people didn't catch on as to why he took a knee. I understood and applauded him for it. At the same time, I'm never going to take a knee during the national anthem because I have an uncle that was a Marine and a father that is a vet. When I stand for the national anthem, I think of them. I think of the people who died for the rights and liberties I have right now and I give them that respect. That's how I think toward the national anthem. Now some people may look at that and think of social justice and how jacked up that is. I'll take a knee before and after the national anthem all day long, but I'm not going to tell someone else how they should protest. I thought it was a shame that Colin's message got lost because people kept bringing up patriotism. It was brave for him to do that. I have a lot of respect for that young man standing up for something outside of the 'Big 3' -- God, family, football -- and I have to say social justice right now is challenging my priorities. Right now I can't think of anything besides social justice."
-- Lynn, the child of a veteran, explains the impact that Colin Kaepernick has had on the league and the discussion surrounding peaceful protest. (Los Angeles Times)
BILL O'BRIEN EDUCATES HIMSELF
"I think everyone has to admit their mistakes along the way. We all have to stand up and understand that what is going on in this country right now is wrong. It's wrong. Relative to many, many things. It's not just police brutality, although that's what we're talking about right now. It's corporate America. It's professional sports. It's the medical area. It's the legal area. We all have to do our part. We all have to do it now. It's 400 years ago [when Africans were brought to the colonies as slaves]. It's segregation. It's police brutality. It's not equal opportunities. It's so much deeper. ... And we have to stand with the black community, and we have to heed the call to action and challenge each other to live out the change that we want to see. I'm emotional. ... I'm sad. I'm frustrated because I'm questioning, 'What can I do?' I've got to do more.
"Listening to their life stories, and many others, like I said, has helped me cement my belief that we all must do what it takes to improve our country, especially as it relates to race relations. It is horrendous what we are seeing and what we saw eight or nine days ago. What is great about our country right now is, to me, the protests, the peaceful protests. The peaceful protests that we see on TV every night [have] just been an amazing example of what our country is all about."
-- Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien speaks candidly on what he has learned through conversations with his players over the last few days. O'Brien also cancelled all virtual football operations for June 9, offering players the chance to attend George Floyd's funeral in Houston. (ESPN)
THE LEAGUE'S QUARTERBACKS SPEAK OUT
"The black community needs our help. They have been unheard for far too long. Open your ears, listen, and speak. This isn't politics. This is human rights."
-- Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow offers his support. (Joe Burrow via Twitter)
"First, I send prayers to the family and friends of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmad Aubrey. As I have watched everything that has happened over the last week and even before then, I have tried to put my feelings into words.
"As a kid who was born with a black dad and white mom, I have been blessed to be accepted for who I am my entire life, but that isn't the case for everyone. The senseless murders that we have witnessed are wrong and cannot continue in our country. All I can think about is how I grew up in a locker room where people from every race, every background, and every community came together and became brothers to accomplish a single goal. I hope that our country can learn from the injustices that we have witnessed to become more like the locker room where everyone is accepted. We all need to treat each other like brothers and sisters, and become something better. Let's be the world where my little sister, generations to come, and even my future kids will grow up never having to experience these tragedies and instead love each other unconditionally!
"Love and unite!"
-- Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes' statement, touching on his experience growing up biracial. (Patrick Mahomes via Twitter)
"BLACK LIVES MATTER! We must commit to hold ourselves and our communities accountable! We must teach one another about our differences. We must embrace the different colors, cultures, and ways of life. To be multi-racial is beautiful and that is what this country is! To the men and women that police our streets, I have the utmost respect for those of you with a passion for protecting and serving your communities. When you choose to wear the badge of a police officer, you pledged to PROTECT life and property through the enforcement of our laws and regulations. How can you claim to uphold the law when those within your own ranks don't abide by it? You need to hold your own accountable! Each of you are as guilty as the men who stood beside Derek Chauvin if you do not stand up against the systemic racism plaguing our police forces nationwide. TAKE ACTION! As long as cops continue to profile blacks as a threat, cops will continue to be perceived as untrustworthy. You have to CHANGE YOURSELF before you can ask anyone else to change!"
-- An excerpt from Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott's statement via Instagram. Prescott has also pledged $1 million to "improve our police training and address systematic racism through education and advocacy in our country." (Dak Prescott via Instagram)
"A few years ago we were criticized for locking arms in solidarity before the game. It has NEVER been about an anthem or a flag. Not then. Not now. Listen with an open heart, let's educate ourselves, and then turn word and thought into action"
-- Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers shared an image of he and his teammates with their arms interlocked during the National Anthem. (Aaron Rodgers via Instagram)
DEMARIO DAVIS CALLS FOR A CHANGE IN HOW WE POLICE OUR COUNTRY
"We can't bring justice to these families. Justice would be bringing those people back and we can't bring them back. The first thing we can do is try to honor those families. The way we honor those families, specifically the Floyd family, is making sure that all four of those officers are not just charged and arrested but convicted. Three of the officers haven't been arrested but 1,600 people have been arrested since the protests began. That's a problem and that continues to sweep the issue that exists under the rug.
"Then we have to change the way policing is done in our country. We know how to respond to crisis, we know how to respond to tragedies. Just think back to 9/11. 9/11 changed the way that we do airports. You'll never walk into an airport and it'll be the same. It was changed as a form of protection. We would never allow that situation to happen again in our country and that's what we need to do around policing. We need to change the way that that we police so we won't have these incidents come up again. Because every time it does it tears at the threads of America. It tears us apart.
"We can't allow bad apples in this specific situation in this specific occupation. It would be the same if we were to say it's OK to have a few bad apples as pilots. Most of our pilots do well, but a few crash planes, we can't have that. Some occupations can't afford to have a few bad apples and police officers is one of them."
-- New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis believes that the American police system is in need of a systematic re-evaluation. (NFL.com)
VIC FANGIO IS OPEN TO CONVERSATION AND CHANGE
"I think our problems in the NFL along those lines are minimal. We're a league of meritocracy. You earn what you get, you get what you earn. I don't see racism at all in the NFL, I don't see discrimination in the NFL. We all live together, joined as one, for one common goal, and we all intermingle and mix tremendously. If society reflected an NFL team, we'd all be great."
-- Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio referred to George Floyd's death as a "societal issue that we all have to join in to correct," but expressed that he did not believe the NFL had a problem with racial discrimination. (ESPN.com)
"After reflecting on my comments yesterday and listening to the players this morning, I realize what I said regarding racism and discrimination in the NFL was wrong. While I have never personally experienced those terrible things first-hand during my 39 years in the NFL, I understand that many players, coaches, and staff have different perspectives. I should have been more clear and I am sorry. I wanted to make the point yesterday that there is no color within the locker rooms that I have been in or on the playing fields I have coached on. Unfortunately, we don't live or work only within those confines. Outside of those lines -- both in the NFL and society -- there is a lot of work to be done in the areas of diversity and providing opportunities across the board for minorities. As the head coach, I look forward to listening to the players -- both individually and collectively -- to support them and work hand-in-hand to create meaningful change."
-- Fangio followed up his comments the following day after having spoken to his players about the issue. (Denver Broncos via Twitter)
DREW BREES' COMMENTS ON THE FLAG INCITE CRITICISM ACROSS THE LEAGUE
"I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country. Let me just tell what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played and when I look at the flag of the United States. I envision my two grandfathers, who fought for this country during World War II, one in the Army and one in the Marine Corps. Both risking their lives to protect our country and to try to make our country and this world a better place. So every time I stand with my hand over my heart looking at that flag and singing the national anthem, that's what I think about. And in many cases, that brings me to tears, thinking about all that has been sacrificed. Not just those in the military, but for that matter, those throughout the civil rights movements of the '60s, and all that has been endured by so many people up until this point. And is everything right with our country right now? No, it is not. We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together, we can all do better and that we are all part of the solution."
-- When asked his thoughts on the possibility of protests of the anthem resurrecting this upcoming season, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees made this statement. (Yahoo! Sports)
"He don't know no better."
"We don't care if you don't agree and whoever else how about that."
-- New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas made these comments via Twitter in reference to the Brees interview. (Buckeyes Wire)
"He's beyond lost. Guarantee you there were black men fighting alongside your grandfather but this doesn't seem to be about that. That uncomfortable conversation you are trying to avoid by injecting military into a conversation about brutality and equality is part of the problem."
-- San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman offered his thoughts in direct response to the original clip on Twitter. (Richard Sherman via Twitter)
"This is a disgrace! To speak about your grandfathers as if there weren't black men fighting next to them. Those men later returned to a country that hated them. Don't avoid the issue and try to make it about a flag or the military. Fight like your grandfathers for what's right!"
-- New England Patriots defensive backs Jason and Devin McCourty, who share a Twitter account, echoed a similar sentiment to Sherman. (Devin & Jason McCourty via Twitter)
"Our communities are under siege and we need help. And what you're telling us is 'Don't ask for help that way. Ask for it a different way. I can't listen to it when you ask that way.' We're done asking, Drew. And people who share your sentiments, who express those, and push them throughout the world, through the airwaves, are the problem. It's unfortunate because I considered you a friend. I looked up to you. You're somebody who I had a great deal of respect for, but sometimes you should shut the f*ck up."
-- New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins addresses Brees directly in a video. (Dov Kleiman via Twitter)
"I would like to apologize to my friends, teammates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, NFL community and anyone I hurt with my comments yesterday. In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused.
"In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country. They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy. Instead, those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character. … I am sick about the way my comments were perceived yesterday, but I take full responsibility and accountability. I recognize that I should do less talking and more listening ... and when the black community is talking about their pain, we all need to listen. For that, I am very sorry and I ask your forgiveness."
-- Brees issued an apology for his comments on Instagram this morning. (Drew Brees via Instagram)
"I think that is a form of true leadership. That's taking ownership. What we had hoped the first time was that Drew would elaborate more on racism and the sentiments of the black community. He admitted he missed the mark. For him to come out and say 'I missed the mark, I've been insensitive but what I'm going to start doing is listening and learning from the black community and finding ways that I can help them.' I think that's a model for all of America. … For him to admit that he was wrong and say 'I can do better and I will do better.' I think that is leadership at its finest."
-- Davis in response to Brees' apology. (CNN)
Who protects us from the Police?Charge and convict the murderers of George Floyd ! pic.twitter.com/90hN3AmNYo
— Malcolm Jenkins (@MalcolmJenkins) May 27, 2020
-- Malcolm Jenkins' original statement regarding the death of George Floyd, embedded in full for you to hear.
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) May 31, 2020
-- Malcolm Jenkins then led by example through engaging in peaceful protest in Center City, Philadelphia.
A wonderful act of service.
Tampa area football players -- including Bengals WR Auden Tate, Bills WR Ray-Ray McCloud, Colts CB Isaiah Rodgers, USF QB Jordan McCloud -- lead cleanup efforts on Fowler Ave after last night's looting
— Grace Remington (@GraceRemiWTSP) June 1, 2020
-- A number of players currently in the Tampa area helped lead clean up efforts on Fowler Avenue following riots in the area the night before.