On Wednesday, the Houston Texans announced they will not be holding virtual meetings on the day of George Floyd's funeral so any player can choose to attend if they are able. Head coach Bill O'Brien says the team is freeing up the June 9 date and that he plans to attend the services.
Floyd, an African American man, died in Minneapolis, Minnesota after white police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for over eight minutes as the victim pleaded with the officer and said he couldn't breathe.
Since then, protests against police brutality and racial injustice have occurred ain all 50 state, andhave weighed in with their thoughts on Floyd's death and the protestors asking for a change across the country.
O'Brien used his platform to speak not only on Floyd's death, but also to offer his thoughts on racism in the United States and what he belives everyone can do to help create change.
"We stand by you, and we are ready to do our part in this community," O'Brien said.
He continued saying (via ESPN):
"I think everyone has to admit their mistakes along the way. We all have to stand up and understand that what is going on in this country right now is wrong. It's wrong. Relative to many, many things. It's not just police brutality, although that's what we're talking about right now. It's corporate America. It's professional sports. It's the medical area. It's the legal area. We all have to do our part. We all have to do it now."
He spoke about the history in the country and how these tensions and mistreatment go back hundreds of years.
"It's 400 years ago [when Africans were brought to the colonies as slaves]. It's segregation. It's police brutality. It's not equal opportunities. It's so much deeper. ... And we have to stand with the black community and we have to heed the call to action and challenge each other to live out the change that we want to see," O'Brien said. "I'm emotional. ... I'm sad. I'm frustrated because I'm questioning, 'What can I do?' I've got to do more."
O'Brien commented that he's had many conversations with players about the events of this week and the issues at hand. He spoke with wide receiver Kenny Stills, who followed former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick's lead in the national anthem kneeling protests that aimed to bring awareness to police brutality of the Black community.
He also spoke with quarterback Deshaun Watson who has been outspoken about the equality movement.
"Listening to their life stories, and many others, like I said, has helped me cement my belief that we all must do what it takes to improve our country, especially as it relates to race relations," O'Brien said.
The head coach also spoke to safety Michael Thomas, who recognized how important the comments from O'Brien are.
"Coach, that was encouraging to hear from you. Just looking back in 2016, 2017, being in Miami with Kenny, to hear a head coach say that, man, you don't know how much [that means]. To a young African American male in this country, it means a lot. So thank you Coach," Thomas said.
O'Brien applauded those coming to the fight with peace in mind saying, "It is horrendous what we are seeing and what we saw eight or nine days ago. What is great about our country right now is to me, the protests. The peaceful protests. The peaceful protests that we see on TV every night [have] just been an amazing example of what our country is all about."
Many players on the Texans participated in taking a knee after Bob McNair, who was the owner at the time, say, "We can't have the inmates running the prison." O'Brien was supportive then of his players expressing themselves.
His support of the players has continued since, and now he wants to ensure they are using their resources for good. On Thursday he will talk to the players about Floyd's death and the next steps they can take.
"I've told my players since 2014 that I have their back. I told my players in 2017, 'I have your back.' I will continue to tell them that I have their back. If they need time to themselves, they can have time to themselves. If they need resources from us to try to begin to heal, we've got to help them. We've got a lot of resources here to do that. They will get it," O'Brien said.