PETER KING TAKES AN INSIDE LOOK AT THREE DAYS THAT SPARKED A MAJOR SHIFT IN THE NFL IN THIS WEEK’S “FMIA” COLUMN
“It’s too early to say that Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were Three Days That Changed the NFL. Action has to follow words. But the seeds are there for change.” – King
“Where the NFL goes from here is a lot like where the country goes from here. Will the push continue?” – King
“The biggest thing is taking the energy and momentum of this moment and using it for real change…The attitude has to be, I’ve got to be the change I want to see.” – Houston Texans safety Michael Thomas to King
STAMFORD, Conn. – June 8, 2020 – Peter King takes an inside look at the three days last week that sparked a major shift in the NFL, and speaks with important figures from in and around the league in this week’s edition of Football Morning in America, available now exclusively on NBCSports.com. King also speaks with NFL players and personalities about next steps in equality. In addition, he discusses the league’s COVID-19 update with NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills.
This week on NBCSN, Lunch Talk Live with Mike Tirico continues each weekday at Noon ET, followed by The Rich Eisen Show at 1 p.m. ET. King will join today’s episode of The Rich Eisen Show. NBC Sports Football Flex, a one-hour show featuring the most topical news and analysis from NBC Sports’ digital football content, begins daily at 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN.
Additionally, ProFootballTalk.com continues to provide the latest offseason news, and NFL insider Mike Florio and analyst Chris Simms provide analysis and updates on PFT Live. Simms also continues to count down his top 40 NFL quarterback rankings.
The following are highlights from this week’s edition of Football Morning in America:
THREE TUMULTUOUS DAYS
King: “It’s too early to say that Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were Three Days That Changed the NFL. Action has to follow words. But the seeds are there for change…Football, like America, is a tinderbox right now.”
Wednesday: The Preamble
King: “11:41 a.m. Drew Brees, in an interview with Yahoo Finance, is asked about players kneeling in protest during the national anthem…The inference that Brees would disapprove of a black player kneeling to protest the oppression of black people was a lit match tossed into a bone-dry forest.”
King: “5:10 p.m. Meanwhile, Story Two was percolating and about to boil over. As with many NFL employees, NFL social media creative producer, Bryndon Minter, 27, was angry with the NFL’s word-salad response to the George Floyd murder and the ensuing outcry for a firmer message…Minter sent a message to Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas, who’d been reacting strongly to the death of Floyd…Minter said he did not expect a response. He got one, in 23 minutes.”
Michael Thomas on the video: “We have the channels – we need the content that can share our voice.”
Thursday: The Wheels Are In Motion
King: “2 a.m. Thomas got the script after midnight in New Orleans. Loved it. Meanwhile, he began engaging some of the league’s biggest stars to be involved – at the same time he was dealing with the three-alarm fire of what Brees said.”
Bryndon Minter on Thomas: “While simultaneously dealing with the Drew Brees situation and figuring how to handle that, he’s texting all these guys around the league to be involved in this project. Once he was in, he said, ‘Don’t worry. We’ll get the best of the best for this.’”
King on the video: “5 p.m. Working on his NFL-issued MacBook Pro on approximately 100 video files of all different quality from 20 NFL players – including Deshaun Watson, Stephon Gilmore, Odell Beckham Jr., Saquon Barkley, Jarvis Landry, Tyrann Mathieu, DeAndre Hopkins and newcomer Chase Young…Amazingly, the video was just about ready and captioned less than 24 hours after Minter broached the idea to Thomas.”
King: “8:15 p.m. Less than 28 hours after virtually meeting Michael Thomas, an iconic video (and it will be) was created and posted, and it will affect how people view players, perhaps for a long time.”
Friday: Black Employees Matter
King: “10 a.m. ‘I’m going to make a video,’ (Commissioner Roger) Goodell announces to his executive team on a regular morning videoconference…The video was powerful, as were several emails to Goodell from black employees, who make up about 10 percent of the league’s off-the-field work force. One spoke of “hopelessness,” and that got to Goodell. There was a league town hall, co-hosted by M.J. Acosta and Steve Wyche of NFL Network, scheduled for 1 p.m.”
NFL influencer and talent marketing manager Jarick Walker to King on an NFL Zoom meeting: “It was a ‘Let it out’ session. A lot of people [black employees] were feeling frustrated. But we got to the point where we weren’t afraid to voice it anymore.”
King: “1 p.m. The 100-minute virtual Town Hall was emotional from the start. One person in the meeting said it was actually Jarick Walker’s question/plea that was the most riveting. Walker was prepared. He was the first employee to speak.”
Walker: “My point, basically, was this: I am unsure where we stand. The NFL is the American sport that brings us all together when disasters happen…The NFL’s not bringing us together. Why? We’re America’s game. We need to hear from the mountaintop that we as a league condemn racism.”
King: “If Goodell didn’t know now how his black employees felt, he did now. And though he’d already decided to come out strong with his own video, this was another brick in the wall…Goodell, in a blue sweater in his home 15 miles north of the league office in Westchester County, recorded his 81-second video for posting that evening.”
King: “At 5:44 p.m. Saturday, Minter got an email from Goodell. Goodell thanked him for the “powerful and impactful” video. Goodell told Minter he’d love to get him more involved in the league’s social initiatives.”
King on next steps: “Where the NFL goes from here is a lot like where the country goes from here. Will the push continue? Will the 32 owners in the league, who have the real power, back their commissioner’s words when 15 players on some team choose to kneel during the anthem this year? And make no mistake – that’s coming.”
Texans safety Michael Thomas to King on the NFL’s response: “It [Goodell’s words and the league’s admission of holding player protests back] is definitely a step in the right direction. However, I personally believe that people are going to call for the league to address what happened to the players who originally protested police brutality and systemic racism and oppression…It’s important that the league says the names Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid, Kenny Stills. It will allow the players to fully believe them and we could then all move forward together.”
WHAT DO WE DO NOW?
King: “With the nation so fraught, I thought I would ask African-American people close to the game to answer this: What do we do now? What should we do next?”
Texans safety Thomas: “The biggest thing is taking the energy and momentum of this moment and using it for real change. Hold our elected officials responsible…The attitude has to be, I’ve got to be the change I want to see.”
Saints linebacker Demario Davis: “The solution has to start with the conviction of four people. Then we have to address police brutality and how black communities are policed in America. It is costing lives. How do we do that? The best way is to empower the good cops. We don’t talk about the good cops enough.”
Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders: “In this crisis, there is only one thing we can do: confront the truth about ourselves and about our nation. The consistent racism against black men runs deep and must be stopped! We must all continue to say the name George Floyd – until as a nation we catch our breath. Let’s take the unity and momentum that we just witnessed as a first step to true reconciliation.”
Patriots safety Devin McCourty: “What we’ve heard and seen in the last week or so is that more people care, more people are interested. I would encourage people to listen. Learn the problems. Really learn them. Let’s listen.”
Former NFL WR and NFL Network’s Nate Burleson: “As a league, there should be even more encouragement to do things that matter in the offseason, and on your off-day. Cities need so much help. Kids need so much help. We need more encouraging voices in our communities. Visit a school. These kids are struggling. Maybe they don’t feel there’s hope. White players should go too – inner-city kids who might only know fear of white police officers, they need to see that there are white people who care about them too.”
NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills on this season: “I remain very optimistic that we will play the season as scheduled. None of us has a crystal ball. Three months is a long time.”
Sills: “If we were to play today, what makes sense to put into play to safeguard teams to the largest possible extent – we have to recognize that will almost certainly change. So flexibility is something we have to have.”
King on learning from other leagues: “Sills has had conversations with medical officials of several sports leagues that have resumed play – including the German Bundesliga, World Rugby and the Australian Football League. In those talks, Sills learned he will emphasize mental as well as physical well-being among NFL players.”
King on team’s Infection Control Officer position: “It’s imperative that the designated Infection Control Officer for each team – often a team’s head athletic trainer – be on top of cleanliness and behavior at each facility and with all players. One GM told me he thought this ICO would be crucial to each team, as important as the coaches who game plan each week.”
Sills: “Everyone’s going to be responsible for a team’s environment. Everybody’s got to be conscious about wearing masks and hand-washing and social-distancing away from the facility. Everyone has a role to play. Everyone shares the risk. Testing, cleaning, separation in physical distancing – it’s not a one-person job.”
The following are additional highlights of NBC Sports’ NFL coverage:
- Lunch Talk Live: NBC Sports’ hour-long, daily sports talk show, which is hosted by Mike Tirico, continues each weekday at Noon ET on NBCSN.
- The Rich Eisen Show: Rich Eisen, a four-time Sports Emmy studio host nominee and NFL Network’s first on-air talent, brings his Los Angeles-based The Rich Eisen Show to NBCSN on weekdays at 1 p.m. ET. King will join today’s show.
- PFT Live: Mike Florio and Chris Simms continue to discuss offseason storylines.
- Simms Unbuttoned Podcast: Simms continues to unveil his Top 40 NFL quarterbacks, discussing Nos. 15-22 throughout the week.
A new “Football Morning in America” posts every Monday morning exclusively on NBCSports.com through the NFL season. It was announced in May 2019 that King signed an exclusive agreement with NBC Sports Group that included writing a weekly Monday morning NFL column for NBCSports.com; making regular appearances on NBCSN’s and NBC Sports Radio’s PFT Live with Mike Florio; and continuing to contribute to Football Night in America, the most-watched studio show in sports.