When a coalition of black NFL stars released a video directed to the NFL with a list of statements they wanted to hear from the league, one voice — literally and figuratively — stood out.
The video was a loud, bold, unprecedented statement from any group of top-shelf NFL players, with or without Kansas City Chiefs quarterback, 2018 MVP and Super Bowl LIV MVP Patrick Mahomes. But as the video progressed, Mahomes came on screen to ask, "[What if] I was George Floyd?" A few seconds later: "I am Tamir Rice." Towards the end of the video, Mahomes was the first player to say the words "Black Lives Matter."
Alongside Chiefs teammate Tyrann Mathieu, Mahomes and Mathieu made sure that Kansas City, a midwestern city decked out in Super Bowl Championship gear, would be a part of a world that had to acknowledge the video, their message, and their pleas.
Plus, the league now had to acknowledge that their brightest rising star was one of many Pro Bowl-caliber players demanding to be heard.
So how did Mahomes and Mathieu find themselves as a part of a paradigm shift in the NFL?
Monday night on (Almost) Entirely Sports, I talked to Bryndon Minter, the NFL Creative Producer who worked with New Orleans Saints WR Michael Thomas to spearhead the video's production. Here's how he explained Mahomes' and Mathieu's involvement.
"I think both Mike and I had something to do with it there. So, Mike reaches out to both of them, he DMs them, Tyrann's immediately in. I've worked with Tyrann before, I gave him a heads up that this was coming. He seemed to bought in from the start. Patrick's team, while I hadn't worked directly with Patrick, I had worked with people on his direct team. And when Mike said, 'hey, Pat, we want you to be in this video,' obviously, as the Super Bowl MVP, and in such a pivotal offseason for Patrick, it's bold to put your neck out on the line like that.
And so they just had questions they wanted to clarify, like, 'What is the project? Who's in charge of producing it? Like, what is this, Mike?' And when he said, 'hey, it's this guy, Brendan Minter,' Pat's team said, 'Oh, wait, we've worked with him before, we trust his ability to tell this story, we'll need to clarify with Brendan and have that conversation, but, as of right now, it seems like we're in.'
And so that was huge to have that pre-existing relationship with both Tyrann and Patrick, or Patrick's team, and I couldn't be prouder of either of them. I respect the hell out of both of them."
Now, Mahomes finds himself as the face of the NFL and one of the faces of an example of player empowerment that can change it.
I also talked to Minter about the lead-up to the decision to create the video that has now made such a splash through and beyond the sports world. Before he reached out to Thomas, Minter said pent up frustration and exhaustion inspired the action.
"This week was very emotionally taxing. We were tired. I was tired, my colleagues were tired, and after three days or so of talking, specifically with the NFL social team as a whole and our superiors, it just didn't seem like anything was getting through. And as the people that press send on the tweets, we know based on the content, we know what the reception is going to be from the fans.
We are on the ground level and know that sentiment on how people react. We know our fan base. We know what people are going to think. And so it just grew, hour by hour that, if the league itself cannot come out and say something as simple as, 'We believe that Black Lives Matter and we condemn racism,' it just was such an elephant in the room. You know, talk is cheap. But those specific words were so important to acknowledge and let that ring true as a statement that the company that I work so hard for, and all of my colleagues work so hard for, should say."
We covered many more topics, including Minter's concern that this video may have lead to him losing his job, his post-video conversation with Roger Goodell, the NFL town hall meeting with Goodell, how his experience at Mizzou influenced him, and where he and the NFL go from here.
For the full conversation with Bryndon Minter on (Almost) Entirely Sports, click here or listen below. My segment with Minter begins at the 20-minute mark.