The story behind the viral video — with a Mizzou connection — that called out the NFL | Mizzou Sports News

The story behind the viral video — with a Mizzou connection — that called out the NFL | Mizzou Sports News

Earlier this month it took 70 seconds and a dozen African American football stars to bend the NFL’s will. One after another, some of the league’s most prominent players looked into their smartphones and read from a powerful and carefully written script, challenging the NFL to address issues that have simmered for years. First posted by Giants running back Saquon Barkley on June 4, the online video has now been viewed more than 3.6 million times in the past two weeks — on Barkley’s Twitter feed alone. Less than 24 hours after the video went viral, its most important target responded when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell posted a video message that featured his first full-throated embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement and, for the first time, an admission of fault for silencing previous peaceful protests by NFL players. “Without Black players, there would be no National Football League,” Goodell said. “And the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of Black players, coaches, fans and staff. We are listening. I am listening.” Behind the scenes, it took a 27-year-old Mizzou journalism major to put the wheels in motion. Four days after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin buried his knee into the neck of George Floyd until he died, Goodell released a 150-word statement, offering the NFL’s condolences while calling for “urgent need for action.” Noticeably missing from the statement were any references to racism, police or protests — issues the league has historically tiptoed around or shunned entirely. “It didn’t really say much,” Bryndon Minter said. “That was really frustrating.” Minter, a native of Overland Park, Kan., attended Mizzou with plans to major in broadcasting. Once in Columbia, he pivoted toward the strategic communications sequence in the School of Journalism and focused on producing social media content. After he graduated in 2015, Minter spent a summer living in his parents’ basement while working for the Kansas City Royals as a video editor. A job with Fox Sports would send him to Los Angeles, and then in 2017 a position with the NFL’s social media video department. As part of his job he provides NFL players with content for their various social media channels. While the NFL struggled to address the issues inflaming the country, young employees in Minter’s department, both minorities and white employees, like Minter, were troubled by the league’s shallow response, he said, especially Goodell’s reluctance to utter the words Black Lives Matter. Employees put together an internal memo expressing their frustrations. The league’s messaging, they believed, had to be stronger. “We were letting leadership know this is how we feel and this is the direction we should go,” said Jarick Walker, manager of the NFL’s influencer and talent marketing department. “Our attempt was to get it as high as possible and as close to the commissioner as possible.” It was two years ago when Goodell and team owners, in response to the anthem-kneeling movement launched by Colin Kaepernick in 2016, approved a policy to require all players to stand during the anthem or stay in the locker room. Players who protested during the anthem were subject to league discipline. Two years later, with protests resurfacing across the country and surely coming to NFL sidelines this fall, Minter quietly took that internal memo, and along with colleague Nick Toney, drafted a script. They just needed some powerful voices to give the words some clout. “It grew and grew to the point I was pissed off and I didn’t really care if I lost my job in an act of rebellion,” Minter said. That’s when he reached out to Saints receiver Michael Thomas. Minter broke protocol and contacted Thomas with an Instagram direct message. “I told him, ‘I can be a tool for you,’” Minter said. “‘If you have a message you want to say, if you want to share your voice, that can put pressure on the NFL.’” Thomas was sold. He said he’d contact other players. That was 11 p.m. Pacific time zone on June 3, a Wednesday night. By Thursday morning, Minter had told his supervisor about the concept. Minter was asked to join a league Zoom meeting to discuss the video. Thomas called Minter during the meeting, prompting “an Irish goodbye” to his bosses, Minter said. Thomas had good news: Players were jumping on board: Browns receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. Cowboys running back and St. Louis native Ezekiel Elliott. Chiefs defensive back Tyrann Mathieu and quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The video’s concept was simple. Minter sent the script to Thomas, who passed it along to the other players. They’d each read the script in a selfie video and send it back to Thomas, who relayed each video to Minter through Instagram. Minter edited the footage into a 1 minute, 10-second montage. Thomas initially wanted each player to post the video on social media simultaneously, but Barkley pushed send first. Within 20 minutes, the other players shared it on their accounts. The next morning, the NFL’s top leadership called a Zoom meeting and invited all employees to participate. Goodell wanted to hear more. Walker read a five-paragraph letter expressing his feelings about the league’s missteps. But he was inspired by the players’ words. “As a Black man in America,” Walker said, “hearing and understanding the sentiments of the Black community and with the players being 70-percent Black, we understood each other without having that conversation.” Later that day, Goodell posted his video response on Twitter and read aloud each of the players’ challenges to the league. Their voices were heard. “He was in a vulnerable place,” Minter said. “To use the players’ script and read it verbatim was jaw-dropping. I couldn’t believe that happened. I know the players thought the same.”

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