The Broncos followed the lead of the NBA and several other NFL teams Thursday by canceling their scheduled training camp practice to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake by police earlier this week in Kenosha, Wis.
Also not practicing were Green Bay, Indianapolis, the Los Angeles Chargers, the New York Jets and Tennessee. Arizona, which wasn’t scheduled to practice, canceled its team meetings.
In a statement, the Broncos said they are “outraged and disgusted with the shooting of Jacob Blake.”
The Broncos had their regular team meeting at 8 a.m., and practice was supposed to begin at 9:15 a.m.
The Broncos’ decision was part of a nationwide professional sports reaction to the shooting of Blake, which came two months after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officers.
“While this tragedy took place in (running back) Melvin Gordon’s hometown of Kenosha, this hits home for all of us,” the Broncos’ statement said. “In the strongest terms, we condemn police brutality, excessive force and these senseless acts of violence that have caused us so much pain.
“It is time for accountability and real police reform. The players are standing together as a team. More importantly, they are standing up for those who need them the most. … The strongest statement we can make is by taking action. It will take all of us.”
It is unclear if the Broncos will practice as scheduled Friday and/or make up Thursday’s workout.
In a joint statement, the NFL and NFLPA said their “community is united more than ever to support one another in these challenging times.”
The statement added: “We are proud that our players and clubs are taking time to have the difficult conversations about these issues that affect the Black community and other communities of color in America. We are especially encouraged that these conversations are about how we can come together to make the necessary and long overdue changes in our country. … We will continue to not only use our collective platform to call out racism and injustice whenever and wherever it occurs in our country, but also fight to together to eradicate it.”
The Broncos did not make coach Vic Fangio or any players available via Zoom video conferencing. Among the teams that did not practice, coaches Mike Vrabel (Tennessee), Anthony Lynn (Chargers), Matt LaFleur (Green Bay) and Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona) had news conferences.
The Chargers were at their new So-Fi Stadium for the first time, but Lynn canceled his team’s scrimmage.
“The last 24 hours have been really, in some ways, frustrating with what’s going around the country right now — it seems like the more work we put in, the worse it gets,” said Lynn, a former Broncos player and assistant coach, on NFL Network. “But we certainly aren’t going to be defeated by what’s going on. We’re going to keep fighting for what’s right. This football team is committed to fighting for a championship and social justice.”
In Jacksonville, the Jaguars met for two hours and the team voted to practice. Afterward, receiver Chris Conley said an extra onus should be placed on the league’s quarterbacks to lead.
“I understand how painstakingly hard it’s going to be for those guys because of the position they’re in,” Conley told reporters. “But if a statement is going to be made by this league in solidarity, it has to start with them. If we are going to put pressure on the people in this country who make change … it’s got to start with them.”
The Broncos started their social justice reform effort June 6 when safety Kareem Jackson organized the team’s attendance (more than 50 players and 20 coaches) to march in downtown Denver less than two weeks after George Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Among those who spoke to demonstrators were safety Justin Simmons and outside linebackers Von Miller and Jeremiah Attaochu.
During his address, Simmons said: “We play for the Denver Broncos, but we’re not here today as the Broncos. I’m here today as Justin Simmons, a member of the Denver community.”