The Detroit Lions cancelled training camp practice on Tuesday, but it had nothing to do with football or the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Two days after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the entire team gathered outside the club's practice facilities to address the incident and advocate for change, vowing not to be silent and declaring that "football is not important today."
Like many NFL teams, the Lions have engaged in team discussions about social issues, namely as it pertains to racial injustice, since the spring, according to NFL Network. But conversations Tuesday morning, centered specifically on what occurred in Kenosha, prompted the entire organization, including head coach Matt Patricia, to replace the day's typical activities with a unified protest.
Wearing face masks and standing side-by-side outside team facilities, the Lions touted several handmade signs and T-shirts with calls for justice. "We Won't Be Silent," "We Demand Justice," and "The World Can't Go On" were among the messages.
The #Lions have canceled practice today. Players and coaches came out addressing the media with a “The World Can’t Go On” and "We Won't Be Silent" signs. Players message: Football is not important today after what happened over the weekend to Jacob Blake.— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) August 25, 2020
Players also spoke directly to reporters to explain their motivations.
"While some people think we are just football players, this league -- 67 percent, two-thirds of these players, are African American," Lions safety Duron Harmon said. "Jacob Blake could've been anybody's brother, cousin, uncle, friend. It could've been them. And it wasn't OK ... I want you to document: The Detroit Lions will be for change. We won't be silent ... We will play football and we will do everything we can to win football games, but we will do everything we can to create change as well."
"Football is not important today," Harmon added, saying "God put us here not only to play football but to create change."
Harmon, of course, is referencing the ongoing national conversation surrounding racial injustice and police brutality, which the NFL has specifically called out this offseason in the wake of the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot at least seven times in the back by a police officer on Sunday and is reportedly paralyzed from the waist down.
Other Lions players spoke out in support of the initiative, including quarterback Matthew Stafford.
"(There's) been a lot of days in my life I've been proud to be a Detroit Lion," he said, per NFL Network, "but probably never more of an offseason or of a day than today that I've been proud to be a part of this team."