Source: LM Otero/Associated Press
- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell condemned racism, apologized for not listening to black players in the past, and said “black lives matter” in a video released Friday.
- The apology came after an NFL producer reached out to several players before putting out a now-viral video asking the NFL to make such a statement.
- President Trump joined the conversation, first criticizing New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees for apologizing after saying it is ”disrespectful” to kneel in front of the American flag.
- Trump then targeted Goodell specifically on Sunday.
NFL Players Release “I am George Floyd” Video
For the first time, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has condemned racism, apologized for not listening to black players’ concerns about racial injustice, and said, “black lives matter.”
Goodell’s statement, made in a video Friday, represents a massive change in stance for the league, which has largely opposed kneeling during the national anthem since then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first did it in 2016.
Goodell reportedly recorded his video after watching a now-viral video from multiple black NFL players, who themselves were responding to comments made by New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees.
In an interview with Yahoo Finance Wednesday, Brees said he believed kneeling was “disrespectful” to the American flag. Soon afterward, his comments went viral, and he became the subject of intense criticism.
That same day, Bryndon Minter—a creative producer at the NFL—messaged Michael Thomas, a teammate of Brees on the Saints. Minter said he reached out because he was embarrassed by how the league had been silent and not condemned racism or said “black lives matter.”
Minter then pitched working together with Thomas to help make players’ voices heard. Thursday evening, joined by a number of NFL players, they released a video now known as “I am George Floyd.”
In it, the players ask, “What if I was George Floyd?” before ultimately saying that because racial injustice could just as easily happen to them as it did Floyd, “I am George Floyd.” The players then followed that “I am” statement with the names of about a dozen more black people killed by police or others, including Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, and Trayvon Martin.
Those players also urged the NFL to condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people, to admit it was wrong in silencing players from peacefully protesting, and to say, “black lives matter.”
Goodell Condemns Racism, Says “Black Lives Matter”
For many, that video was a powerful moment of black players standing in solidarity to hold their organization accountable. It was also one that seemed to pay off as it was later reported that Goodell himself was also moved by the video.
In fact, according to an executive close to Goodell, “Roger felt like they were speaking directly to him. There’s been a lot of self reflection going on across the league.”
The next day, Goodell released a video statement where he answered many of the requests made in the players’ video and said, “We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. 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. We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter.”
Notably, that is is the first time Goodell has publicly said “black lives matter.” It’s also the first time the NFL has apologized for how it’s responded to black players.
In the past, Goodell condemned kneeling, saying that players should stand for the national anthem. At one point, he even endorsed a short-lived policy that would have forced them to stand.
Still, Goodell’s response did not fully satisfy many because while he apologized for how the NFL responded to black players, he did not apologize for the NFL’s stance on kneeling. In fact, Goodell never makes a specific mention to kneeling. He also never mentions Kaepernick.
“The NFL should explicitly say Colin Kaepernick’s name,” sports journalist Taylor Rooks said. “Can’t acknowledge the right to protest & not have his actions stated.”
Rooks also noted how much power those players in the “I am George Floyd” video have, saying, “SO much more to be done, but a lot can be accomplished when players speak as one.”
Goodell’s statement comes after a May 30 tweet where he said, “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.”
“We recognize the power of our platform in communities and as a part of the fabric of 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.”
That tweet also received heavy criticism for not making any mention of racial injustice and for not addressing the NFL’s history with Kaepernick, who at one point, sued the NFL for allegedly colluding to blacklist him.
“@NFL what actual steps are you taking to support the fight for justice and system reform?,” NFL players like Vikings Linebacker Anthony Barr said. “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.”
Trump Blasts Brees and Goodell for Apologizing
President Donald Trump was among those criticizing Brees and Goodell for changing or seemingly changing their stances on kneeling during the national anthem.
“I am a big fan of Drew Brees,” the president said on Friday. “I think he’s truly one of the greatest quarterbacks, but he should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag.”
“NO KNEELING,” he followed up.
Sunday night, Trump then took aim at Goodell.
On Instagram, Brees directly responded to the president’s criticism, saying, “…this is not an issue about the American flag. It has never been. We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities.”
“We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial & prison reform.”
“We as a white community need to listen and learn from the pain and suffering of our black communities. We must acknowledge the problems, identify the solutions, and then put this into action. The black community cannot do it alone. This will require all of us.”
Whether Goodell’s comments signify a serious change for the NFL remains to be seen as it won’t just require changes to executives and policies; rather, it will need to address whole teams, their players, sponsors, and even fans.
For example, last week, the Washington Redskins supported the protests by tweeting #BlackOutTuesday. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) then responded by calling the team out for the controversy around its name and mascot, saying: “Want to really stand for racial justice? Change your name.”
See what others are saying: (Yahoo Sports) (The Wall Street Journal) (ESPN)
Justin Bieber Apologizes After Supporting Morgan Wallen’s Music
Bieber said he had no idea the country star had recently faced backlash for using a racial slur.
Justin Bieber Apologizes
Singer Justin Bieber apologized on Wednesday after sharing support for music from embattled country singer Morgan Wallen.
In February, Wallen was caught saying the n-word on a video circulated by TMZ. He was subsequently dropped from major country radio stations and suspended by his label. Still, he has managed to have a successful year so far, and his album — “Dangerous: The Double Album” — has spent months at the top of the carts.
Bieber posted on his Instagram story this week that he was listening to “Dangerous” and said he loved the album. He ended up deleting that post after fans called him out. Bieber later explained that he was unaware of Wallen’s recent controversy.
“I had no idea that the guy’s music I posted was recently found saying racist comments, as you know I don’t support or tolerate any sort of racism or deicrimination,” he wrote on his Instagram story. “I had no idea, I sincerely apologize to anyone I offended.”
Bieber Addresses Previous Controversies
The “Sorry” singer then addressed backlash he previously faced for a similar reason. Two videos surfaced in 2014 depicting Bieber using racial slurs when he was younger. In the first, he was 15-years-old and told a racist joke using the n-word. Bieber was 14-years-old in the second video, where he made a racist parody of his song “One Less Lonely Girl” that likewise included the n-word. He apologized for both at the time and brought them up again on Wednesday in hopes others could learn from his mistakes.
“When I was a kid, I was incredibly ignorant and said some very hurtful racist jokes that were clearly not funny,” he wrote. “I hurt a lot of people, especially the Black people in my life but was fortunate enough to have had them educate me on the horrifying origin of the N-word. This brings those painful memories back up, I will always take ownership for my ignorance and my past because I know I am not that person.“
He added that even though he has already apologized for these remarks, he believes it is important “to bring this up to hopefully educate people who may be ignorant to the topic of racism and how hurtful it is.”
He added that he has a lot left to learn but is thankful for the patience he has received, particularly from the Black community.
Read more: (Entertainment Weekly) (Complex) (The Hollywood Reporter)
Selena Gomez Slams “The Good Fight” for Kidney Transplant Joke
The singer said the reference to her transplant was “tasteless” and encouraged writers to call out these kinds of jokes so they don’t make it on air.
Selena Gomez Addresses Joke About Kidney Transplant
Singer and actress Selena Gomez slammed a recent episode of “The Good Fight” Tuesday after it made a joke about her 2017 kidney transplant.
In one scene of the Paramount+ show, a group of characters brainstorm jokes and then start discussing what subjects are out of bounds. They ultimately agree that necrophilia, autism, and “Selena Gomez’s Kidney transplant” are not to be mentioned.
This led to swift backlash online from people who thought the series was making light of Gomez’s health struggles. Many argued on Twitter that the singer’s battle with Lupus is no laughing matter, prompting Gomez to join the conversation herself.
“I am not sure how writing jokes about organ transplants for television shows has become a thing but sadly it has apparently,” she wrote. “I hope in the next writer’s room when one of these tasteless jokes are presented it’s called out immediately and doesn’t make it on air.”
Gomez also encouraged people to register as organ donors if they are able to do so.
A source close to the production of “The Good Fight,” however, told Variety that some of the anger is being taken out of context.
“If you watch the episode in full, the reference to Selena Gomez is part of a discussion the characters are having about topics that are not okay to make fun of and the idea of cancel culture and being canceled for telling a bad joke,” the source explained. “The reference is that Selena Gomez’s transplant is not something you can joke about.”
Previous Joke in “Saved by the Bell”
Still, some believe that by referencing Gomez’s kidney transplant as something you can’t joke about, the show was in turn making a joke about it.
This is not the first time a show has made headlines for making a quip about Gomez’s procedure. In 2020, a scene from Peacock’s “Saved by the Bell” reboot was removed because it included several characters talking about the situation. In the scene, characters were asking if several people, including Gomez’s ex-boyfriend Justin Bieber and singer Demi Lovato, were secretly Gomez’s organ donor. At one point “Does Selena Gomez even have a kidney?” is written on a school hallway.
Gomez’s friend Francia Raisa gave her the kidney in an act Gomez previously described as “the ultimate gift and sacrifice.” NBC ended up apologizing for the scene, claiming they had no “intention to make light of Selena’s health.” The network also donated to The Selena Gomez Fund for Lupus Research at the University of Southern California.
After the apology, Raisa slammed the joke in “Saved by the Bell” as offensive and dismissive to organ donors. She made no specific remarks about the joke in “The Good Fight” but retweeted Gomez’s posts on the matter.
See what others are saying: (Variety) (Entertainment Weekly) (People)
Disney Eviscerates Scarlett Johansson’s “Black Widow” Lawsuit as “Callous,” but Report Suggests Emma Stone and Emily Blunt May Follow Her Lead
“There is no merit whatsoever to this filing,” the company said in an uncharacteristically blunt statement that was heavily criticized online.
Johansson/Disney Lawsuit Gets Bitter
Disney has described a recent lawsuit from “Black Widow” actress Scarlett Johansson as “sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” but Johansson may have just unleashed what is to become an even bigger legal challenge for the House of Mouse.
At the center of this dispute, Johansson alleges she lost $50 million because Disney opted for a dual streaming/theater release of “Black Widow,” which debuted in theaters and for $30 on Disney+ with Premier Access earlier this month.
According to Johansson’s suit, her contract with Disney — which was negotiated prior to any hint of a pandemic — stipulated that “Black Widow” would see an exclusive theater release. Notably, the actress also said her contractual bonuses were tied to the movie’s box office performance, which is an extremely common practice with films featuring A-list celebrities.
Of course, when the pandemic hit — like many other industries — movies were upended. Pandemic-related changes meant that despite having an initial release date of May 2020, Marvel fans wouldn’t get a chance to see “Black Widow” for over a year.
Still, Johansson said she tried to contact Disney to renegotiate her contract prior to the film’s ultimate release, but she claims the company was unresponsive.
On Thursday, she then filed a complaint with the Los Angeles County Superior Court, with her attorney arguing that “Disney has enjoyed the benefits of having one of Hollywood’s top actresses promote its wholly owned subscription service at no additional cost to Disney, and with the intended effect of taking money out of that actress’ own pocket.”
Later Thursday, Disney claimed that it has “fully complied” with Johansson’s contract and that the streamed release of the film “has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20M she has received to date.”
“There is no merit whatsoever to this filing,” the company said in its uncharacteristically blunt statement.
Are Emma Stone and Emily Blunt Next?
Speaking of blunt, it was reported Friday that both Emily Blunt and Emma Stone may also file lawsuits against Disney’s dual streaming release of their films.
In fact, according to an exclusive newsletter run by former Hollywood Reporter Editor Matt Belloni, Stone “is said to be weighing her options” over the dual release of “Cruella” in May. Meanwhile, he suggested Blunt could also take action or speak out following this weekend’s release of “Jungle Cruise.”
Belloni went on to describe Disney as “notoriously difficult to deal with” regarding such matters and claimed that many have simply been waiting for someone powerful enough to speak out.
Disney Criticized for Its Response
Much of the public perception of the situation has led to overwhelming support for Johansson’s camp. Online, a slew of people lambasted Disney’s response, with many calling it a deflection.