Vikings’ Ameer Abdullah: NFL Can Push Social Justice Movement ‘A Lot Further’

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 20: Ameer Abdullah #31 of the Minnesota Vikings looks on from the sidelines before the start of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on October 20, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Minnesota Vikings running back Ameer Abdullah took a knee during the national anthem in 2017 as a member of the Detroit Lions.   

Fighting systemic racism and police brutality is a cause he couldn’t look away from then, and he wasn’t going to allow the protest started by Colin Kaepernick to fade just because the quarterback was looking for a job. 

There’s also the fact he plays in the most-watched sports league in the United States, a stage that holds a rapt audience for seven hours every Sunday during the season plus, typically, three prime-time appearances per week. 

As the NFL begins giving more leeway in how it reacts to players protesting, Abdullah is ready to see the league embrace change, not delay it. Speaking on a panel led by NFL Network’s Steve Wyche Tuesday night on NFL Total Access with Vikings teammates Kyle Rudolph and Eric Kendricks, the running back gave an idea of just how much he believes football can help solve problems in society:

“The NFL holds great power. Every kid wants to be Kyle Rudolph. Every kid wants to be Eric Kendricks. Can’t say they all want to be Ameer Abdullah. I hope so, I hope so for sure. Just understanding that influence that we have on the youth and how malleable the youth are with picking up on things and understanding empathy as opposed to sympathy, like what Kyle spoke about, I feel like the league can really carry that torch. We can really spark a real psychological change in this nation.

“A great influencer or a great organization like the NFL, has a great opportunity to seize this and to push the movement forward through action. And obviously, listening to what Roger Goodell said about before he wasn’t listening to athletes’ voices enough, that’s great. Acknowledging that is the first step. But the next step I think is organizing with each individual team.

“I think we have a great responsibility that can really move this movement a lot further, a lot faster, if we seize that.”

Abdullah doesn’t think that will be easy by any means. In fact, he wants to prepare players for the pushback they’ll likely receive. 

When the running back began kneeling during the anthem in Detroit, he said there were people he thought were in his corner who flipped on him—and fans who were even harsher than that. 

Abdullah expects there will be a lot more kneeling this season and that there may be times at which it’s not easy to keep going:

“I would say to the people who are intending to protest this year, expect a lot of the same. But what we have to do is understand that awareness is the goal. It’s not to upset people. It’s not to be an individual or stand away from your team, it’s about bringing awareness to a real issue that’s been persisting in this country for hundreds and hundreds of year. To make a physical demonstration, to bring awareness towards that, I think is a respectful act, as long as it’s peaceful, of course. But, expect a lot of resistance. But like I alluded to earlier, before you can have peace, there must be war. And war doesn’t always mean fighting and bullets flying. Sometimes it’s just a war between words. A war between social groups. I think ultimately we’re moving in the right direction, though.”

The NFL still provides one of the largest stages in the country. Abdullah will continue to use it to do more than just run. He’s hoping the league will follow that lead. 

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