A group of some of the NFL's brightest stars sent a message to the league and the public in a powerful video released on Thursday in which they ask, "What if I was George Floyd?"
Stars like Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley posted the video on their social media accounts, directing their strong message to the league office and NFL fans.
"It's been 10 days since George Floyd was brutally murdered," New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas begins before other stars follow him. "How many times do we need to ask you to listen to your players? What will it take? For one of us to be murdered by police brutality?"
A group of players then asks, "What if I was George Floyd?"
The death of Floyd, 46, who died after a white police officer pinned him on a Minneapolis street with a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes, has sparked protests at hundreds of cities across the country.
The players followed by referencing the names of a group of unarmed black people, many of whom were killed by police in incidents that made national headlines.
"I am George Floyd," Hopkins says before he is followed by more players. "I am Breonna Taylor. I am Ahmaud Arbery. I am Eric Garner. I am Laquan McDonald. I am Tamir Rice. I am Trayvon Martin. I am Walter Scott. I am Michael Brown Jr. I am Samuel Dubose. I am Frank Smart. I am Phillip White. I am Jordan Baker."
The players also had a message for the NFL and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, who cracked down on the silent protest of taking a knee during the national anthem against racial injustice in 2016 that was led by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
"We will not be silenced," the players say in the video, which has been viewed millions of times. "We assert our right to peacefully protest. It shouldn't take this long to admit."
Seventy percent of NFL players are black, and the stars made their demands to league executives clear.
"On behalf of the National Football League, this is what we, the players, would like you to hear you state: We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. We, the National Football League admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting. We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter."
The players' statement comes after Goodell issued an official statement last week saying the league was saddened by Floyd's death and was working to address issues of systemic racism. Some players accused Goodell of hypocrisy, saying he'd helped stifle the protest led by Kaepernick.
On Wednesday, Saints star quarterback Drew Brees found himself at the center of a backlash when he he said in an interview with Yahoo Finance that he "will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country" when it comes to kneeling during the anthem.
"This is where I stand: I stand with the black community in the fight against systemic racial injustice and police brutality and support the creation of real policy change that will make a difference," he continued. "I condemn the years of oppression that have taken place throughout our black communities and still exists today. I acknowledge that we as Americans, including myself, have not done enough to fight for that equality or to truly understand the struggles and plight of the black community."