The NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell have taken a hardline stance against racism and social injustice, years after Colin Kaepernick took his first knee in 2016 in silent protest of police brutality, a protest joined by many other players around the league. The death of George Floyd, which resulted in the arrests of one Minneapolis police officer on a charge of second-degree murder and three others for aiding and abetting second-degree murder, thrust the NFL player protests back onto center stage amid impassioned demonstrations that literally circle the globe. When Drew Brees responded to a question about the NFL player protests by making the issue about respecting the flag, the backlash from teammates and others around the league and the sports community resulted in the New Orleans Saints quarterback issuing multiple apologies for "insensitive" comments that "completely missed the mark."

Goodell released a video apology with an admission that the league "was wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier," a statement that "Black Lives Matter," an encouragement of peaceful protests and a confession that "without black players, there would be no National Football League." It's a moment in time many believed would never arrive for the NFL, and it was driven by a powerful video pieced together by wide receiver Michael Thomas, in conjunction with a league employee who believed he'd be fired for his hand in designing it. 

Thomas, who found himself at odds with his own quarterback only a day prior, opened his Instagram DMs to an unexpected message from Bryndon Minter, an NFL social media staffer, and it read as follows:

"Hey Mike," said the DM, via Yahoo! Sports. "Want to help you create content to be heard around the league. I'm a NFL social employee and am embarrassed by how the league has been silent this week. The NFL hasn't condemned racism. The NFL hasn't said that Black Lives Matter.

"I want [to] help you put the pressure on. And arm you with a video that expresses YOUR voice and [what] you want from the League. Give me a holler if you're interested in working together, thanks bro!"

Thomas responded and 24 hours later, the following video was released by the All-Pro and others involved with the effort:

Behind the scenes, however, Minter was carrying a very real anxiety about it all, according to the Yahoo! Sports report.

He wanted to push the league into action, but knew he could be unemployed for doing so, considering the DM to Thomas was breaking NFL protocol. While Minter was hard at work crafting a script for Thomas and the other players involved, and subsequently while fielding their video submissions, he finally told his boss of his plan -- who then sent it up the ladder. He was then summoned to a Zoom call with the league's higher-ups and "was ready to lose" his job on that call. Instead, the league relented and allowed him to complete his work.

"We didn't feel like our voices were heard," Minter said. "And that's what ultimately inspired me to go rogue."

And so it was, that one day after the Thomas-led video was released, Goodell himself followed up with a message that directly salutes the fight Kaepernick took on head-first four years ago. While the NFL stopped short of mentioning his name, it did finally align itself with the protesting players, at least for the time being. In a matter of only a few days, Thomas has now been one of the driving forces behind apologies from both Brees and Goodell -- with the former also defending his apology in a response to President Donald Trump -- all major steps forward in the battle against social injustice from the platform of professional football.

All eyes are now on the NFL to see what it does next and, in particular, how it will treat players who choose to kneel in 2020.