Following the death of George Floyd, Washington Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins made a point to go out and peacefully protest on June 8 while spreading awareness on senseless police brutality with the support of his organization.
Floyd died when Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while apprehending the 46-year-old man.
“The whole decision to go to D.C. was just — I feel like everybody in this day and age likes to just talk, and I wanted to be about action,” Haskins said. “I wanted to go down there and be a part of the difference.
“It was my first protest ever,” he said. “I never thought I’d ever be able to actually go to a protest, especially in this day and age, so it was just crazy to be there. I talked to [Senior Vice President of Player Development] Doug [Williams], I talked to [Senior Director of Player Development Malcolm Blacken] about trying to get in touch with someone that was down there and go walk up to people.”
Before Haskins traveled downtown to speak on equality while interacting with protesters, running back and team leader Adrian Peterson let it be known publicly that he will be peacefully protesting before games this upcoming season by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem.
Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick initially sparked the movement to bring change through the process of kneeling before NFL games in 2016, which was met with staunch opposition. He and former 49ers safety Eric Reid were at the forefront of the kneeling movement, sending a message to the league and the world about the issues that ultimately lead to Floyd’s death.
The NFL mandated that the league would monetarily fine teams that allowed kneeling or protesting during the playing of the anthem after Kaepernick’s initial peaceful protest.
After numerous discussions with the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), the rule has since been revised and allows players to kneel if they wish, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently admitted on a social media video that “we were wrong” about the league’s previous actions on kneeling protests.
“We, the National Football League, believe Black lives matter,” Goodell said in the video. “Protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality, and oppression of Black players, coaches, fans and staff. I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve.”
Peterson said he will continue Kaepernick’s cause and resume the fight against social injustices that have spread across the nation with his head coach behind the future Hall of Famer’s decision as well.
“I was fortunate enough to have Eric Reid with me in Carolina,” said Redskins head coach Ron Rivera. “When Eric and I talked, it was an eye-opener for everyone. It also helped me to really understand what the protest was about in terms of taking a knee. It had nothing to do with our military, nothing to do with our first responders, nothing to do with the flag. It had everything to do with social injustice and brutality, police brutality, and working to get that corrected.
“I was fine with it because of what I had read and because of what the Constitution said and what the Bill of Rights talked about,” he said. “The right to freedom, life, and liberty. It is there, and it talks about the rights that we have. It is their choice, their decision. I support it because it is in our Constitution. That is what our military personnel fought for…for our rights and for our safety.”
Since taking the helm as head coach, Rivera has openly stated that there needs to be a “culture change” in Washington.
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has given Rivera the keys to the franchise and echoed those sentiments of a “culture change” during Rivera’s introductory press conference in January. However, when given a chance to kneel with his team in unison, Snyder has chosen not to do so up to this point.
Snyder did not kneel with his players during a nationally televised game against the Oakland Raiders on Sept. 24, 2017. He instead linked arms between former cornerbacks Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland to show a sign of solidarity amid the mixed opinions and actions from the league and public on national anthem protests.
With social unrest surrounding the nation, Rivera, Haskins and Peterson appear to be setting the tone for that “culture change” in Washington, D.C.