When NFL players take the field this season and TV cameras zero in on their helmets, viewers could be seeing names like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in bold letters placed on the back.
Starting in week 1 of the NFL, players could be wearing the names or initials of police brutality victims or names of those affected by systemic racism, a concept now being discussed within the league.
“Each player will have the option to honor an individual by displaying that person’s name via a decal on the back of their helmet,” read an NFL memo, according to ESPN. “Players will be offered a list of names and short biographical information to help guide their decision-making, however, they can also select a victim of systemic racism who is not represented on this list.”
The NFL Network reports that names could be worn by individual players or teams may act in unison and make their tribute together.
A decision on the helmets hasn’t been finalized yet, but NFL insiders believe the idea will move forward.
However, the league has made a final decision on placing messages in the back of end zones to make a statement on racial equality. One phrase will read “It Takes All of Us” and the other will be “End Racism,” and both will be seen this season, starting week 1.
The NFL seems to be following the NBA’s response to nationwide protests and the call for systemic racism to end, something that’s been happening since Floyd died in Minneapolis, Minnesota, while being arrested in May.
Earlier this month, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association agreed that players can wear social justice messages on the back of their jerseys, like “Black Lives Matter,” “Say Their Names,” and “How Many More.”
The NBA has also placed the words “Black Lives Matter” on the court in Orlando, Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort, which can now be seen during televised scrimmages.
Unlike the NBA, the NFL has been criticized for how it responded to racism and police brutality ever since Colin Kaepernick began kneeling for the national anthem in 2016 to protest both of those things.
A group of Black NFL players, including Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, asked the NFL to take a stronger position against systemic racism in June after Floyd’s death.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell then responded and said he was “wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier” and told them to continue to use their voices to fight racial injustice.
In addition to the helmet idea, it was announced earlier this month the NFL was going to play “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the Black national anthem, before every NFL game, starting week 1.
The NFL also said in June that it would give $250 million toward the fight to end systemic racism over a 10-year period.
The first game is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 10, between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans. In a separate tribute, the league will pay respects to frontline COVID-19 workers this season by placing thank you messages on stadium seat coverings.