The National Football League (NFL) has said players should be allowed to protest during the national anthem and admitted it was “wrong” to have banned it previously.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement saying the League condemns racism amid worldwide Black Lives Matter protests over the killing of George Floyd.
“We were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest,” he said in a video.
The NFL took a stand against players protesting during the national anthem after quarterback Colin Kaepernick ‘took a knee’ in 2016 in protest against police brutality.
Kaepernick was ostracised by the NFL for the protest and has not played a game since 2016. Football fans voiced their outrage at the player by burning his jersey, while US President Donald Trump even said players should be “fired” for disrespecting the flag.
Eventually, in 2018 the NFL banned players from taking a knee during the national anthem, saying they should either “stand and show respect for the flag”, or remain off the field until the anthem finishes.
But the NFL has now backtracked, with commissioner Goodell saying he now wants “to be part of the much needed change in this country”.
“We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people,” he said.
“Without black players, there would be no National Football League.
“And the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff.
“We are listening. I am listening, and I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve and go forward for a better and more united NFL family.”
Many of those who originally vilified Kaepernick for protesting are now on his side with the Black Lives Matter movement back at the fore.
Unarmed African American Mr Floyd died after a white police officer held him down by pressing a knee into his neck in Minneapolis on May 25.
Protests were sparked after video footage showed Mr Floyd gasping that he cannot breathe while being arrested by four officers in Minneapolis, before being pronounced dead.
They have since been charged over the death which sparked days of protest in the US and Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrations across the world.