FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Empty practice fields made for loud and powerful statements at nine facilities across the NFL.
The Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Chargers, New York Jets, Tennessee Titans and Washington Football Team all chose to not practice Thursday in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Wisconsin.
“We’ve been protecting the shield,” Jets running back Le’Veon Bell wrote of the NFL in a Twitter post. “It’s time for the shield to protect us.”
Blake, 29, was shot by police, apparently in the back, on Sunday in Kenosha as he leaned into his SUV, three of his children seated inside. The shooting was captured on cellphone video and ignited new protests in the U.S. three months after the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer touched off a nationwide reckoning over racial injustice.
Broncos running back Melvin Gordon grew up in Kenosha, and he and other players, coaches and staff posed for a team photo that was posted along with a statement on Twitter.
“This hits home for all of us,” part of the statement read. “In the strongest terms, we condemn police brutality, excessive force and these senseless acts of violence that have caused so much pain. It is time for accountability and real policy reform.”
The Detroit Lions canceled their practice Tuesday, protesting the incident involving Blake, and racial injustice. They were back on the field Thursday, but the impact of their actions was clear across the rest of the league.
“I think that if there’s any chance that we got everybody to maybe stop and think for a minute, that’s really great,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said Thursday during a video call.
The Titans came up with three concrete things they plan to do after canceling their practice: make sure everyone’s registered to vote; focus on talking points for meeting with elected officials; and hold a Zoom call to connect with thousands of students around Middle Tennessee designed to help teach the same equality and acceptance the players experience at work.
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