Jags' Thompson calls NFL statement on racism 'trash' and says he was told not to kneel

Tom Lutz
Photograph: Tony Avelar/AP

Jacksonville Jaguars safety Peyton Thompson has described the NFL’s statement on the death of George Floyd as “trash” and says he was told by his coaches not to kneel during the national anthem protests in 2016.

“The statement issued by the @nfl is complete trash,” Thompson wrote on Twitter on Monday. “I specifically remember [Jaguars executive vice-president] Tom Coughlin and [head coach] Doug Marone telling us we couldn’t kneel. Thank God we had an owner of minority [Shahid Khan] who weighed in and got us to kneel together! My job security was on the line if I supported my people.”

On Saturday, the NFL put out a statement saying it was saddened by the death of Floyd as well as the recent high-profile killings of two other African Americans, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Many pointed out that NFL teams have effectively exiled former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick after he highlighted the same racial injustice in the United States that has cost the lives of Americans such as Floyd, Arbery and Taylor. Houston Texans receiver Kenny Stills described the NFL’s statement as “bullshit”.

The league has also been criticized for its failure to recruit minority coaches. There were eight NFL head coaches from minority background in 2018, now there are four.

Related: The same people who put Trump in office run the NFL. No wonder it's not diverse

Thompson’s comments come as an increasing number of athletes from the NBA and NFL, in both of which the majority of players are black, express anger at racism in the United States.

On Sunday Michael Jordan, widely acknowledged as the greatest NBA player in history, broke from his usual apolitical stance to condemn America’s “ingrained racism”.

“I am deeply saddened, truly pained and plain angry,” wrote Jordan in a statement posted by the Charlotte Hornets, the NBA team he owns. “I stand with those who are calling out the ingrained racism and violence toward people of color in our country. We have had enough.”

Others have pointed out the uncomfortable fact that it is most often rich white men who profit from young black men in US sports. North Carolina Central men’s basketball coach LeVelle Moton said on Sunday he has been disappointed by the failure of white coaches to speak out about the death of Floyd. Moton, who is black, says that the top coaches, who are paid millions of dollars a year, profit from the African American community but do little to protect it.

“The reality is a lot of these coaches have been able to create generational wealth,” Moton said on ESPN Radio’s Sunday Morning. “Their grandkids’ kids are gonna be able to live a prosperous life because athletes who were the complexion of George Floyd were able to run a football, throw a football, shoot a basketball or whatever have you so they have been able to benefit from athletes that look like George Floyd and many more. But whenever people [who are] the complexion of George Floyd are killed, assassinated, murdered in the street in broad daylight, they’re silent.”

Some high-profile white athletes, such as Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, and the No1 overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, Joe Burrow, have spoken about the death of Floyd. Burrow said that the “black community needs our help” on Twitter last week.

“They have been unheard for far too long,” said Burrow, the Heisman Trophy winner from Louisiana State. “Open your ears, listen, and speak. This isn’t politics. This is human rights.”