Takeo Spikes: NFL apology to players was reassuring - but they had no choice
"Now this is the first time while being associated with the NFL where I've seen players taking the lead and saying 'you're going to follow our lead, because we're tired'"
By Cameron Hogwood
Last Updated: 11/06/20 1:40pm
Takeo Spikes has taken optimism from the NFL's decision to publicly apologise to its players, but admits the league faced no other option at this point.
Commissioner Roger Goodell produced a renewed statement on Friday in response to a powerful video led by the league's star players demanding a stronger show of support amid protests over racial injustice in the wake of George Floyd's death.
In it he admitted the NFL made a mistake by "not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest" in the past, before going on to say "I personally protest with you and want to be part of the much-needed change in this country. Without black players, there would be no National Football League".
This followed on from an initial statement in reaction to the killing of Floyd that had been subject to strong criticism for its failure to directly address racism.
"To hear his video was reassuring, especially after you see the players video come out and they have such great demand," said former Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Spikes on Inside the Huddle.
"From listening to the commissioner's video, I believe him but also to be honest you don't have a choice at this point."
"The reason why I'm optimistic. If he said that because he had to say that, I get it, you have to say that. Let me remind everybody that the NFL is comprised of at least 70 per cent plus when it comes to black men.
"Now this is the first time while being associated with the NFL where I've seen players taking the lead and saying 'you're going to follow our lead, because we're tired'."
Colin Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the national anthem four years ago in protest of police brutality was wrongly perceived by many, including a number of NFL team owners, as a sign of disrespect to the American flag and military - a narrative largely pushed by President Donald Trump.
Having seen the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback fail to secure a job since then, Spikes expects a more transparent backing of the black players that help take the NFL forward.
He continued: "At the end of the day, they are great business men so are you going to listen to your employees that bring in the cash?
"Or do you want to make that same mistake you made a few years ago with not acknowledging what Colin Kaepernick really stood for and you fast forward three or four years later and some of the same things are still going on?"
Trump recently questioned New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees' decision to publicly apologise after he was criticised for saying he would "never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America" in regards to players taking a knee.
The President also opposed Goodell after his statement, suggesting the commissioner was "intimating that it would now be ok for the players to kneel, or not to stand, for the National Anthem, thereby disrespecting our Country & our Flag?"
He had famously encouraged NFL owners to fire any player who protested at the time of Kaepernick's stand.
"It's a distraction because at the end of the day he's not even practising what he's preaching," added Spikes. "He is doing nothing but dividing the country.
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"I do also understand being raised in the south that a lot of people, his followers, he can implement policies that will go clearly against them from a revenue stand point and they still agree with him. You talk about the ignorance in that.
"When we talk about this and does it have a place in today's game? As much as we don't want it to have a place, it does because as we saw four years ago when he turned around and called the players SOBs (sons of b*****s) after Colin Kaepernick.
"So clearly when you see his remarks and his consistency as far as 'let's just see if I can throw a little gas on the fire to see if I can spark somebody to say something', that's what he's clearly doing."
Spikes, who recorded 1,423 tackles in his 15-season career, admits it has been an "emotional rollercoaster" seeing not only America, but the entire world come together to stand against racial injustice during the coronavirus pandemic.
While he is confident of progress being made, he insists it will require a combined effort.
"If we understand that not only as a nation but as an entire world, will it take a while? Of course it will," he said.
"But anything worth having is worth working for. That's something I was always taught and I truly believe we can take steps in the right direction but it's going to take everybody.
"When we talk about the disparities and the racism, obviously it's going to start with our white counterparts."