The Detroit Lions canceled practice on Tuesday to hold a team meeting about the shooting of Jacob Blake. Players say the hours-long conversation was powerful, and now the team is vowing to dedicate time and energy to affecting social justice reform. After the meeting, the team gathered outside to address the press, with two signs saying “The World Can’t Go On,” and “We Won’t Be Silent.”
Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot several times in the back after police were reportedly called about a domestic disturbance. Reports say Blake had been trying to break up a fight between two women when he was shot, while three of Blake’s children watched. Now, the Chicago Sun-Times reports that Blake is paralyzed from the waist down.
“Today, practice wasn’t on any of our minds,” said safety Duron Harmon. “What was on our mind was a tragic event: Jacob Blake being shot in his back seven times. Just let that sit in and think about that real quick. An unarmed guy, trying to get in his car and he was shot in his back seven times while three of his children were in the car. What if one of the bullets would have ricocheted off something and killed one of his kids? Would that be enough to prosecute the officers? It was reckless behavior.
“I think sometimes officers think that they can just get away with anything. And just look at it, history has shown that they have been able to get away with a lot of stuff.”
Brett Hankison, the officer who “blindly fired” 10 bullets in the killing of Breonna Taylor was fired by the Louisville police department. The other two officers involved in the shooting remain on the force. None have been arrested.
The three officers involved in Elijah McClain’s death have all been taken off street patrol, but none of them have been arrested.
Derek Chauvin, the officer who killed George Floyd, was charged with second-degree murder. The three other officers at the scene of Floyd’s death have been charged with aiding and abetting Chauvin. All four await trial.
“I think it’s at the point in time where we have to hold police to a higher standard,” Harmon said. “Taking somebody’s life because you can’t arrest them, that’s not ok. It’s not ok to kill somebody because you feel like you can’t subdue them. No, you need to be better at your job… You don’t shoot someone in the back in front of their kids. It’s not ok and it never will be ok.”
So what’s next for the Lions? Well, they’re not exactly sure yet, but several players were resolute in saying that a next step is coming. Whatever that next step is, the Lions will be taking it as a team.
“I want to keep stressing that we are all in this together,” said defensive end Trey Flowers. “We are one unit, we are making decisions-- any decision that we make as a team, every single person in that locker room and inside these walls is in (agreement). Whatever we do we want to make sure we stick together and stay together.
“We definitely have some ideas, some conversations brewing. One thing we understand about America and about people in America is that the narrative has kind of shifted. We understand that it’s a sacrifice. You might step on some toes. You might ruffle some feathers. But in order for change to happen, or for something to happen, someone has to be uncomfortable.”
If they’re criticised by fans, or if their upcoming stand against social injustice impacts their lives outside of football, so be it.
“Everyone inside these walls understands that, understands what it comes with-- the backlash it may come with,” Flowers said. “How the media tries to depict it, how the fans try to depict it, how they say there’s no room for politics in football… We’re football players, but we’re humans. Everyone in this world is a human… We’re all brothers: the human race. We are all one. Once we realize that and overcome just a difference of skin color, a difference of culture, then we’ll start to love one another.”
“There’s probably never more of an offseason, or really of a day today, that I’ve been more proud to be a part of this team,” said quarterback Matthew Stafford. “It’s an incredible group of guys that we have in this locker room, led by a coach that is unwavering in his ability to give us space to talk.”
“This organization is going to make sure we speak out on it,” said Harmon. “We can’t be silent no more. Nobody can be silent. If you’re being silent, you’re ok with it… Nobody in this organization is ok with it, so we’re going to do our part to create change.”