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NFL says avid gamers’ protests must now be allowed

Colin Kaepernick (centre) and two players from the San Francisco 49ers kneel during the national anthem in New York. Photo: October 2016Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Colin Kaepernick (centre) and two other players kneel during the national anthem in 2016

The National Football League has said players can now protest during the US national anthem, as rallies continue against police brutality and racism.

“We were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said.

The NFL had banned its players from dropping to one knee, a practice started by Colin Kaepernick in 2016.

Meanwhile, a large protest is expected in Washington DC on Saturday.

The demonstration is the latest in a series of protests against racial discrimination that have been held across the US following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on 25 May.

Mr Floyd, an unarmed black man in handcuffs, died after a white policeman knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The officer has been charged with murder while three colleagues stand accused of aiding and abetting.

On Friday, Minneapolis officials said police would be banned from using neck restraints and California pledged to follow suit.

What did the NFL commissioner say?

In a video, Mr Goodell denounced racism in the US in comments that came shortly after a number of players urged the NFL to take a stronger stance on racism and police brutality in the country.

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Media captionWATCH: ‘I remember George Floyd as me’

“We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter. Protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff,” he said.

“I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve.”

But on Friday President Donald Trump again voiced his opposition to such protests, saying on Twitter: “We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart. There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag – NO KNEELING!”

More on George Floyd’s death

What’s the story behind Kaepernick’s kneeling?

The practice of kneeling during the customary pre-game playing of the national anthem was started by black player Colin Kaepernick in 2016 in protest against racial injustice.

A number of other players soon joined Kaepernick, who was a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers at the time.

He became a free agent after the 2016 season and remains unsigned. Kaepernick filed a grievance against NFL owners in October 2017, believing they were conspiring not to hire him because of his kneeling protests.

The two sides resolved the grievance in February under a confidentiality agreement.

What else is happening in the US?

On Friday, the Minneapolis City Council and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights agreed to ban police neck restraints and chokeholds.

The new policy, which will be enforceable in court, requires any officer regardless of rank to verbally and physically intervene if they witness a colleague using such unauthorised force.

Meanwhile, California’s Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom said he would move to end state police training in the use of the “carotid restraint”.

San Diego Police Department banned the technique this week in response to the nationwide uproar over events in Minneapolis.

Officials in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles have all previously taken steps to ban or limit the use of chokeholds by members of their police departments.

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Media captionTrump: ‘Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that’s happening’

In a separate development, President Trump was condemned by his Democratic challenger Joe Biden for invoking Floyd’s name in a speech to mark a surprise US jobs rebound.

US protests timeline

Tributes to George Floyd at a makeshift memorial
Image caption Tributes to George Floyd at a makeshift memorial

Image copyright by Getty Images

George Floyd dies after being arrested by police outside a shop in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Footage shows a white officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck for several minutes while he is pinned to the floor. Mr Floyd is heard repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe”. He is pronounced dead later in hospital.

Demonstrators in Minneapolis
Image caption Demonstrators in Minneapolis

Image copyright by AFP

Four officers involved in the arrest of George Floyd are fired. Protests begin as the video of the arrest is shared widely on social media. Hundreds of demonstrators take to the streets of Minneapolis and vandalise police cars and the police station with graffiti.

Protesters lie on the streets in Portland, Oregon
Image caption Protesters lie on the streets in Portland, Oregon

Image copyright by Reuters

Protests spread to other cities including Memphis and Los Angeles. In some places, like Portland, Oregon, protesters lie in the road, chanting “I can’t breathe”. Demonstrators again gather around the police station in Minneapolis where the officers involved in George Floyd’s arrest were based and set fire to it. The building is evacuated and police retreat.

President Trump tweets about the unrest
Image caption President Trump tweets about the unrest

Image copyright by Reuters

President Trump blames the violence on a lack of leadership in Minneapolis and threatens to send in the National Guard in a tweet.  He follows it up in a second tweet with a warning “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”. The second tweet is hidden by Twitter for “glorifying violence”.

Members of a CNN crew are arrested at a protest
Image caption Members of a CNN crew are arrested at a protest

Image copyright by Reuters

A CNN reporter, Omar Jimenez, is arrested while covering the Minneapolis protest. Mr Jimenez was reporting live when police officers handcuffed him. A few minutes later several of his colleagues are also arrested. They are all later released once they are confirmed to be members of the media.

Derek Chauvin charged with murder

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin after being charged over the death of George Floyd
Image caption Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin after being charged over the death of George Floyd

Image copyright by Getty Images

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, 44, is charged with murder and manslaughter. The charges carry a combined maximum 35-year sentence.

Demonstrators set fire to rubbish in New York
Image caption Demonstrators set fire to rubbish in New York

Image copyright by Reuters

Violence spreads across the US on the sixth night of protests. A total of at least five people are reported killed in protests from Indianapolis to Chicago. More than 75 cities have seen protests. At least 4,400 people have been arrested.  Curfews are imposed across the US to try to stem the unrest.

Trump posing with a Bible outside a boarded-up church
Image caption Trump posing with a Bible outside a boarded-up church

Image copyright by EPA

President Trump threatens to send in the military to quell growing civil unrest. He says if cities and states fail to control the protests and “defend their residents” he will deploy the army and “quickly solve the problem for them”. Mr Trump poses in front of a damaged church shortly after police used tear gas to disperse peaceful protesters nearby.

George Floyd’s family joined protesters in Houston
Image caption George Floyd’s family joined protesters in Houston

Image copyright by Getty

Tens of thousands of protesters again take to the streets. One of the biggest protests is in George Floyd’s hometown of Houston, Texas. Many defy curfews in several cities, but the demonstrations are largely peaceful.

Mourners gather to remember George Floyd
Image caption Mourners gather to remember George Floyd

Image copyright by Getty

A memorial service for George Floyd is held in Minneapolis.  Those gathered in tribute stand in silence for eight minutes, 46 seconds, the amount of time Mr Floyd is alleged to have been on the ground under arrest. Hundreds attended the service, which heard a eulogy from civil rights activist Rev Al Sharpton.


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