'We were wrong': NFL commissioner regrets stance on player protests

A stunning about-face from the commissioner of the NFL.

Roger Goodell said the league was on the wrong side of the issue when it came to players protesting racial inequality. In a video on Friday, Goodell denounced racism in the United States amid widespread protests over police brutality against 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.”

The NFL has been locked in an ongoing debate with players over kneeling protests during the national anthem. The practice was popularized by quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016 to protest racial injustice and police brutality.

Kaepernick faced fierce professional and political blowback for his silent protests -- most notably from the President of the United States, who has repeatedly tweeted about the cultural flashpoint -- once even calling Kaepernick a "son of a bitch" for kneeling.

(TRUMP SEPT 22, 2017) "Wouldn't you love one of these NFL owners whens somebody disrespects our flag to say get this son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. he's fired. he's fired!"

Now with protests filling streets in cities and towns across the country, the act of kneeling has become a symbol of solidarity. And it becomes news when police join in, or when politicians like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take a knee.

(GOODELL) “Protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff,” said Goodell. “I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve.”

The NFL sent the video out just hours after U.S. President Donald Trump renewed his call for an end to kneeling protests during the national anthem, tweeting:

“We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart...There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag - NO KNEELING!”