Early Thursday morning, the Ravens had their regularly scheduled training camp practice. By that point, there were just three practices left in the training camp portion of the schedule. Then, the team will switch to regular season style practices.
Thursday morning was also when the groundwork was laid for one of, if not the most, comprehensive statements from a professional sports organization on the topic of social justice.
A day after the Milwaukee Bucks boycotted their playoff game resulting in the postponement of games across the league, which spilled over to the NHL and MLB as well, the Ravens decided they wanted to practice. Anthony Levine Sr., who is a captain and has been with the team since 2012, spoke with coach John Harbaugh to have a discussion about social justice.
Harbaugh recommended the team not wait any longer on a meeting and instead pushed forward for a Thursday afternoon meeting.
The end result was a two-plus hour long get-together that led to a second meeting, where players and assistant coaches crafted a comprehensive, detailed and direct statement about where the team stood on social justice issues.
“This is the players’ statements and the assistant coaches that were involved in it,” Harbaugh said. “You can’t control somebody else’s thoughts and beliefs, and the players felt strongly that they wanted to do something together and we had very knowledgeable assistant coaches who were involved in that. I started the meeting at that part, and then I stepped away from it and trusted them.”
The Ravens statement, which was released Thursday night, called for, amongst other things, the arrest and charge of the police officers responsible for Breonna Taylor’s killing and the recent shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The statement also urged Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, to bring the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to the floor for a vote.
The organization’s statement drew wide praise around the league, including from some outside the NFL circle, for its directness and hands-on approach to dealing with social justice issues.
“The statement was really great because it was very specific and it outlined the things we’re going to do in terms of initiatives and legislation that we want to support,” Harbaugh said. “There’s a bill that we’re supporting, that we think is a positive bill, that many police officers support and police departments and police unions also support many of these different initiatives.”
No players have been made available to speak to reporters since Tuesday — the team had an off day Wednesday followed by cancellations on Thursday and Friday — meaning Harbaugh’s press conference Friday was the first time anyone from the organization had spoken to the media.
Harbaugh praised his team for their effort on the statement, as they worked through issues and difficulties together in the locker room.
“And what they came up with, not everybody is going to agree with every point in that statement,” Harbaugh admitted. “Not everybody on our team probably is going to agree with every aspect of it. But the ability to respect one another’s opinion and come up with something together that's workable, that we can go forward with, I think is a good example of how you can work with every problem.”
While the NBA is set to resume play Saturday, the possibility of players sitting out games was brought to Harbaugh’s attention. While he said he wasn’t sure about what was next, he believes that the players will want to play.
The Ravens initially announced they had cancelled their Friday practice to focus on social justice reform, but Harbaugh said the team instead changed course to hold a walkthrough in the afternoon ahead of the team’s scrimmage at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday night.
The last few days have been a whirlwind for members of the organization, which crafted a detailed and up-front statement about the issues that are at the forefront in the United States.
“By the end of the day, I was surprised how emotionally spent I was, and I think everybody was,” Harbaugh said. “Because we care about one another, we had some interesting, deep, challenging things that were said back and forth. But in love. They were spoken in love. And we learned a lot.”
The statement the Ravens released, they know, isn’t going to change every person’s perspective with a few simple demands and plans of action. Instead, they’re hopeful what they put together will be the start of significant change in and around the players and coaches’ lives.
“We do the best we can,” Harbaugh said. “We know we’re not going to change the whole world overnight, but we can change our world. Our family, our cul de sac, wherever place we’re at, to try and create that type of an atmosphere in our individual world. That’s what I think our guys are trying to do.”