Marcus Stroman pitches for the New York Mets. In assessing the current situation in this country, he was direct.

“Racism is thriving in America,” he tweeted. “That is a fact.”

Monty Williams coaches the Phoenix Suns. He is 48 and a father. Yet in writing an op-ed for the Athletic, he felt like a directionless teenager.

“I’m angry. I’m afraid,” he wrote. “And I’m in pain.”

Russell Wilson plays quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks. As he mulled the path forward for his stepson, his daughter and another son on the way, he wrote, “I fear because of the color of their beautiful chocolate skin.”

The NFL is a $16 billion American business. As protests raged through the broken cities in which it houses teams — from Minneapolis to Atlanta, Los Angeles to Houston — it pushed out a 150-word statement. It’s as if each of those words has been dipped in hand sanitizer, lest anybody find one out of place. Not among the 150 words: “race,” “racism,” “police,” “black,” “color,” “skin,” “African American” or “law enforcement.”

Issuing a statement on the murder of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of a white police officer and avoiding all those terms? That’s actually hard to do.

“These tragedies inform the NFL’s commitment and our ongoing efforts,” the league wrote in the statement, attributing it to Commissioner Roger Goodell. “There remains an urgent need for action.”

Commitment to what? Ongoing efforts for whom? It’s not like a job offer for Colin Kaepernick followed. Nor did any outline of what such “action” would look like. What followed instead were just 42 more milquetoast words, filling space so Goodell and the rest of his suits could jump on a Zoom call and exchange self-satisfied nods with each other, presumably while evaluating the art above each other’s mantels.

As Houston Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills responded on Twitter, “Save the bulls---.”

Here’s what’s clear about the sports world’s reaction to Floyd’s death at the hands — or, more accurately, knee — of a white Minneapolis police officer: The players and coaches will lead the way in furthering discussion and understanding and eventually engendering change. So many owners and league officials either will be dragged along or left behind, even as they look out of the corners of their eyes at the fans — read: customers — they’re so worried of offending.

That the players are ahead of the owners on these matters has been true for years, even way before Kaepernick first took a knee in 2016 to protest police brutality and inequities in the justice system. The players led the way by spreading such protests — peaceful protests protected by the Constitution — through the 2017 season, when the president of the United States called any player who knelt a “son of a bitch.” The mean-spirited, race-baiting tone of that rhetoric seemed shocking at the time, so callous and insensitive for someone in such an office, unpresidential and worse. Now we call it “Monday.”

But the players, they’re going to keep going. They have made choices, so many choices, to lead. Choices such as that of Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown, who drove from Massachusetts to Atlanta, near where he grew up, to participate in peaceful protests over the weekend. Choices such as that of Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud, who wrote in an essay for the Players’ Tribune: “As a black person in America, there’s only one thing that could possibly BE on my mind. And that’s fearing for my life.” They have made choices such as that of St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler, who wrote on Instagram, “You don’t understand why we know, those officers didn’t flinch at murdering that man, because he is black.”

And they have made choices such as that of Miami Dolphins Coach Brian Flores, who wrote in a statement distributed by the team: “Many people who broadcast their opinions on kneeling or on the hiring of minorities don’t seem to have an opinion on the recent murders of these young black men and women. I think many of them QUIETLY say that watching George Floyd plead for help is one of the more horrible things they have seen, but it’s said among themselves where no one can hear. Broadcasting THAT opinion clearly is not important enough.”

The clear choice, then: It’s too important not to broadcast it. To offer the raw experience so many of us can’t comprehend and will never experience. To explain the fear, not of these inherently frightening times but of daily life.

And then the Minnesota Twins, who play all of four miles north of where Floyd died, issued their own statement.

“We will continue working with our community partners to move forward with courage, free of hate and thoughtful in our path, to create the change we want to see in the world — one, all-inclusive Twins Territory, where everyone is protected, safe and welcome,” the Twins said.

It sounds nice. It says nothing. And lovely use of the marketing slogan. Maybe we could embed a link to buy tickets right over “Twins Territory.”

Why not be more forceful and plain? Because it might be seen as an affront? Here’s a thought: It’s offensive not to address the reality of what’s happening. There’s no courage — to use the Twins’ word — in putting out a statement that calls for courage but doesn’t address whom you’re standing up for and what you’re trying to change.

It’s as if there’s some imaginary fence these organizations are trying to straddle, an acknowledgment that they are, above all else, businesses. On one side, disgust that such ingrained racism still thrives; on the other, either ambivalence or denial, and who’s to say which is worse?

As these franchises and leagues walk some sort of tightrope, trying to placate the aggrieved but not anger the privileged, they’re not staying out of the argument. They’re doing worse: saying there are two legitimate viewpoints here. Which, of course, there can’t be — unless you think black people repeatedly dying at the hands of white law enforcement is a defensible position.

All this is why the Washington Wizards’ statement Sunday stands out as extraordinary even as it should be the norm. The team pushed it out via Twitter in four one-sentence panels, calling it “a united statement from our players.”

“We will no longer tolerate the assassination of people of color in this country. We will no longer accept the abuse of power from law enforcement. We will no longer accept ineffective government leaders who are tone-deaf, lack compassion or respect for communities of color. We will no longer shut up and dribble.”

Now, you can quibble here. This is from the players. The statement from Monumental Sports & Entertainment isn’t nearly as forceful. But owner Ted Leonsis had to endorse the players’ statement. For the Wizards to send that out, someone had to say: “Yes. Go. It’s who we are. It’s what we believe. The potential harm it could cause by offending someone is far outweighed by the good it could create by being clear about what so many African Americans deal with every single day.”

In the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic, in the midst of the nightly protests, it’s easy to shove sports to the side. Most of the time, it’s appropriate and inevitable. There’s more important stuff going on.

But more than almost anyone, professional athletes have seen both sides of what rocks the country. So many have experienced abject racism and lavish privilege. They can lead on these issues if we not only listen but then follow and act. Their teams and leagues ought to do the same.