Houston Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills told reporters on Monday that he thinks that the NFL could have helped save “so many lives” if it embraced players’ kneeling protests against racial injustice sooner.
Stills made the comments during a press call on Monday, according to USA Today, just one day after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in an interview that he wished the league listened to former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick earlier when it came to the protests. Goodell also said in the interview that he thinks the kneeling movement, which Kaepernick kickstarted in 2016, had been mischaracterized as unpatriotic by critics who claimed the demonstrations were “disrespectful” to the country’s flag.
“It is not about the flag,” Goodell said of the protests in a sit-down with former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Emmanuel Acho. “The message here that what our players are doing is being mischaracterized. These are not people who are unpatriotic. They're not disloyal."
In his remarks to reporters on Monday, Stills, who has participated in the kneeling protests in the past, said the comments by Goodell were a “nice” gesture, but that more could have been done by the league earlier on.
“He can say whatever he wants to say now but in a sense, if we would have taken a more stern stance and he would have listened to us in the beginning of this, there would have been so many lives that could have been saved,” the wide receiver said.
“I hope that we can do a better job moving forward of listening to our players, understanding our issues and then doing something about it,” he added.
The comments come as no surprise from Stills, who has not shied away from calling out the league for its handling of kneeling protests during the national anthem and has continued to use his platform in recent years to bring attention to racial inequality.
Stills had criticized Goodell for a statement he issued not long after the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in Minneapolis in late May after a white officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes during an arrest.
“As current events dramatically underscore, there remains much more to do as a country and as a league. These tragedies inform the NFL’s commitment and our ongoing efforts. There remains an urgent need for action. We recognize the power of our platform in communities and as part of the fabric of American society,” Goodell said at the time.
Stills responded to Goodell in a post on Twitter less than a day later, saying, “Save the bullshit,” as a chorus of top figures on the platform lashed out at the league and labeled the commissioner’s comments “ironic” in light of its track record on the kneeling protests.
Stills was also among the 87 people arrested last month for protesting outside the home of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) over the lack of charges for the police officers who killed Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was shot to death in her Louisville apartment in March.