The Detroit Lions canceled practice Tuesday in response to the recent shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, by Kenosha (Wis.) Police.
In a widely seen cellphone video made by an onlooker, Blake was shot as he leaned into his SUV while his three children sat in the vehicle. Police said they were responding to a call about a domestic dispute. They did not say whether Blake, who was hospitalized in serious condition, was armed or why police opened fire, they released no details on the domestic dispute, and they did not immediately disclose the race of the three officers at the scene.
The footage has sparked wide-spread outrage throughout the country and the sports world.
“While some people think that we’re just football players,” Lions safety Duron Harmon said, per FOX 2 Detroit, while addressing the media in front the team facility and next to a sign that read “THE WORLD CAN’T GO ON,” “this league, 67 percent — two-thirds of its players — are African American. Jacob Blake could have been anybody’s brother, cousin, uncle, friend. Could have been them. And it wasn’t OK.”
Harmon later told reporters during a virtual media session, per the Detroit News: “This organization is going to make sure we speak out on it. We can’t be silent anymore — nobody can be silent. If you’re being silent, you’re OK with what’s happening.”
“We Won’t Be Silent!!” message from Lions players pic.twitter.com/8jgCQBwgQh
Lions defensive end Trey Flowers told reporters that players had learned from what the NBA has done in social justice messaging and they will push the franchise to do more to support the cause.
“You might step on some toes, you might ruffle some feathers, but in order for change to happen, it has to get uncomfortable,” Flowers said.
Lions coach Matt Patricia said that it didn’t feel right to proceed with a standard practice day.
“I didn’t feel right about going out there and trying to run some football drill without talking to our team,” Patricia told reporters. “As far as I’m concerned when things are hard in the world there’s two things I check. First is my family, and the second is this football team and the guys in that locker room. And making sure that everybody is OK. And that was my mindset walking in today was just to make sure that everybody was OK. And honestly, it was a long conversation, a lot of listening. Trey Flowers said something in the spring to me that was so impactful to me. … He said it can be so simple: Just listen.
“I just wanted to listen and there was some amazing, amazing conversation, and really I just give credit to our players for being open and caring for each other and loving each other enough to have that conversation, to share, to trust, to have that space to speak and to listen. I know there’s the football side of it, but quite frankly if we made a difference or we impacted people that affects them in the long run, football’s only for so long. So I think that was what was important for us today, and I’m just proud of our guys, the players in that locker room for speaking and leading. This is a player-led team, there’s no doubt. These guys are super intelligent, super smart and they have some amazing things to say that quite frankly I just have to listen and follow.”
Patricia added: “Just proud of our players. I challenge everybody to do this. I challenge everybody in the league to do it. To go out there and continue these conversations and to listen. These are real stories. … We want to be a part of the solution.”
Matthew Stafford said he’s never been more proud of his team, adding zero football was discussed during Tuesday morning’s team meeting and Patricia opened up the floor for players to speak.
“Football is the last thing on our mind at the moment, to be honest with you,” Stafford said, per The Detroit News.
“The biggest thing for us was, how do we get our voices heard? We have a lot of guys in this locker room with a lot to say and a lot of guys that are extremely smart and talented speakers and understand so much of what’s going on,” Stafford added.
“It’s the first time that we’ve all been in the same room to talk about it and had the ability to see each other’s faces … and just feel that. Obviously it’s something that continues to happen. And the level of frustration and anger is palpable.”
Earlier this summer, several Lions players and Patricia participated in the Belle Isle Freedom March, which was organized by former Detroit running back Joique Bell.
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