The presence of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the video calling on the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell to denounce racism and apologize to players for a lack of support for peaceful protests reportedly played a big role in the swiftness of the league office.
“Let's put it this way: The second I saw him in that video, I knew Roger had to act quickly. Everyone, including all the owners, knows he's the guy," an NFL executive told Jason Reid of The Undefeated.
Mahomes was among several players who said they would "not be silenced" by the league in a video that included Odell Beckham, Saquon Barkley, Michael Thomas, Ezekiel Elliott and a number of other stars:
"We will not be silenced. We assert our right to peacefully protest. It shouldn't take this long to admit. So, on behalf of the National Football League, this is what we, the players, would like to hear you state: 'We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. We, the National Football League, admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting. We, the National Football League, believe Black Lives Matter.'"
Goodell responded with a video Friday admitting the league was wrong and saying "we encourage all players to speak out and peacefully protest."
The video did not mention Colin Kaepernick by name. Kaepernick became the face of peaceful protests of police brutality and discrimination against black people in 2016 when he began kneeling during the national anthem. He has not played in the NFL since the end of the 2016 season.
Reid reported that several NFL officials highlighted the importance of Mahomes' involvement because he's seen as the face of the league.
Mahomes has regular season and Super Bowl MVPs on his mantle two years into being a starter, emerging as perhaps the most singularly gifted quarterback in NFL history. Reid's reporting said the NFL was "backed into a corner" when Mahomes said "Black Lives Matter" as the league has regularly tried to distance itself from stances on divisive racial issues:
"Let me tell you something … that [Mahomes' involvement] was huge,” former NFL quarterback Doug Williams said. “We're not talking about a 15-year veteran. We're talking about a young man who's not even 25. He has been the MVP of this league. He has won a Super Bowl. Just right there, he's already made an incredible impact in this league.
"Then he goes and does this [participates in the video] at this time. With all these young people out here marching in the streets and demanding change, it's a different time right now. You see that there are so many young people leading. It says a lot that he wanted to be involved in pushing for that change. It was very powerful."