NFL players and fans weren't the only ones caught off guard when commissioner Roger Goodell released a video statement saying the league condemns racism and stating, "We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter."
According to Mark Maske of the Washington Post, team owners were "mostly taken by surprise" when the video was released Friday following a demand by some of football's most prominent players for the NFL to acknowledge systemic racism.
Per Maske, Goodell informed only a few owners of the video ahead of its release. Maske also reported that "most owners are expected to support" Goodell's statement.
It was a notable response for a league that had mandated its players stand for the national anthem or remain in the locker room in 2018 following Colin Kaepernick's kneeling during the anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice.
However, whereas players asked for the NFL to "admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting," Goodell stopped short, saying, "We, the NFL, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest."
The difference is significant, especially with players like Washington's Adrian Peterson telling reporters he will take a knee during the anthem when the 2020 season kicks off—and Peterson expects many of his colleagues will join him in doing so.
In 2017, some owners were widely criticized for their response to players kneeling during the anthem, with late Houston Texans owner Bob McNair reportedly saying, "We can't have the inmates running the prison," per ESPN's Don Van Natta Jr. and Seth Wickersham, during a meeting of team owners.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was present during that meeting and was in favor of the league mandating players to stand for the anthem to help the league protect its business interests.
Maske notes some around the league now wonder how Jones will respond to Goodell's video.