(CNN) – NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday the league should have listened to players earlier about racism concerns in a response to NFL players calling on the league to condemn racism and support its black players.
Goodell posted a video to the NFL's social media on Friday in response to the video "Stronger Together," which features several of the league's most famous players asking the league to take a strong stance in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis.
"We the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people," Goodell said. "We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest," Goodell said.
Goodell noted that it has been a difficult time for the country, in particular black Americans, and offered his condolences to the families of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and "all the families who have endured police brutality."
"Without black players there would be no National Football League," Goodell said. "And the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff."
Goodell said he will be reaching out to players and others who have spoken out on these issues to see "how we can improve and go forward for a better and more united NFL family."
The video by NFL stars was released on Thursday and featured the following players: Davante Adams, Jamal Adams, Saquon Barkley, Anthony Barr, Odell Beckham Jr., Ezekiel Elliott, Stephon Gilmore, DeAndre Hopkins, Eric Kendricks, Jarvis Landry, Marshon Lattimore, Patrick Mahomes, Tyrann Mathieu, Patrick Peterson, Sterling Shepard, Michael Thomas, Deshaun Watson and Chase Young.
In the video, the players, speaking in unison, say: "So on behalf of the National Football League, this is what we the players would like to hear you state. We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systemic oppression of black people. We, the National Football League, admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting. We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter."
Racism has been a persistent issue in the NFL, particularly after former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling before games while the national anthem played to protest police brutality.
No team has offered Kaepernick a contract since 2017, which many attribute to his protests. Kaepernick accused NFL team owners of colluding to keep him from being signed. The NFL denied any collusion but in 2019, they reached a settlement with Kaepernick and former teammate Eric Reid, who knelt with him.
Goodell's response comes after a nearly year-long partnership with Jay-Z's Roc Nation. The partnership established The Responsibility Program, an initiative providing education grants to families that have been affected by injustices through the United States. The program has created multiple public service announcements which have been released one of which featured Meek Mill and the Dreamchasers.
A spokesperson for the NFL's Inspire Change program told CNN that a Legacy Grant Program was recently launched and that three grants have already been given to families of victims of police brutality: Botham Jean, Antwon Rose II and Danroy "DJ" Henry.
Goodell's response also comes after Saints quarterback Drew Brees said he would "never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag." Brees made the comment when asked his opinion about players kneeling to protest police brutality once the NFL season begins this fall.
He has since apologized for his “insensitive” comments after receiving criticism from his own teammates and other athletes.