PHILADELPHIA – As many as six NFL teams called off their training camp practice on Thursday in the wake of a Jacob Blake being shot seven times in the back last weekend in Kenosha, Wisc. after police were called to investigate a domestic disturbance allegedly involving Blake.
The Phillies chose not to play their game against the Washington National on Thursday night while the NBA took a real hard stand when it canceled some of its playoff games on Wednesday night.
The Eagles practiced on Thursday, but that doesn’t mean they are insensitive to yet another incident of social injustice and systemic racism.
“Just canceling practice and telling everyone to go home isn’t the message that we want to send because what are we going to do with that time?” said Eagles safety Rodney McLeod. “How are we going to fill that time with something impactful and make a difference?
“We have an action plan that we will put in place moving forward. I’m excited about that.”
McLeod did not want to get into specifics, but the Eagles had a team meeting on Wednesday night to discuss the current events, with topics ranging from police brutality to educational reform to systemic racism.
The team’s social injustice committee, which has several players and is led by McLeod, is scheduled to meet on Friday to discuss what can be done going forward to facilitate what change, if any, can be implemented going forward.
“It’s hard to put your finger on, ‘OK, this is how you create change,’" said quarterback Carson Wentz, "but I do know, we can’t solve all the problems but where can we focus our efforts? Is it physically getting out into the community? Is it financially supporting an area? Is bringing light to a certain topic, a certain issue that needs to have a voice so to speak?
“I can’t really put my finger on one thing right now. We have committee meeting coming up here and we’re going to talk through a lot of those things.
“We want to see real change. I know the NBA, everyone’s using their platform to create that change, and some fans may not like but at the end of the day, there’s a hurting community and we want to reach out and respond to that hurt.”
Wednesday’s meeting was called by head coach Doug Pederson, who continues to show leadership among his players by being sensitive to the plight of the African American community.
“Coach had the courage to stand up and address it, kind of have an open floor microphone and let people explain and express their feelings,” said Wentz. “I think guys felt that was, I don’t want to say good enough, but that was definitely something that needed to happen so we could come out (Thursday and practice).
“I had a heavy heart coming in this morning after a lot of conversation (Wednesday) night. I think a lot of guys had a lot on their hearts. But we’re able to go kind of escape, practice, and go for two hours then come back in and here we are having conversations and it’s great and it’s healthy.
“I don’t think anyone questioned coach’s ability to keep having practice, but the way he’s orchestrated meetings and given us extra time to talk about these things and giving us the platform to share, I think has been huge and I think we’re all in support of that.”
It was the same kind of take-charge demeanor Pederson showed in the spring after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn.
“I commend Doug for that, him being the leader of our team and opening up the floor, letting guys talk and express themselves,” said safety Jalen Mills about Wednesday’s meeting. “You have times where you may have younger guys coming into the league, and they don’t want to speak out like that because they’re scared if they speak out, they may get in trouble or get cut.
“For Doug to open up the floor and say anybody can express themselves, that let guys get a little more comfortable. We had a couple of guys talk.”
Mills said Pederson talked about growing up in the state of Washington and not having African American friends until he went to college in Louisiana.
Mills also talked, telling of his life growing up in Dallas, Texas.
“I’ve seen growing up, 8th grade, 9th-grade year, friends hanging out at the movies, and just because it was a group of African-Americans teenagers hanging out, the police came over and they messed with us,” said Mills. “They pull out their tasers and tell everyone, ‘Hands up. Don’t move.’”
Mills said one of his friends moved his head quickly to look at another friend and was immediately tased.
“He had to wear a patch on his face for about a month and a half … because the taser had burnt the kid on his face,” said Mills. “I have so many more experiences, but that was kind of the things that I experienced in my life.”
Wentz has been very candid about growing up in North Dakota with very few African Americans in his community, both in the spring and again on Thursday. The quarterback said he has done “a lot of learning.”
"I’m no longer just a kid from North Dakota that can just kind of use that (ignorance) card,” said Wentz. “There’s hurting in this world. … how can I be a helping hand? I don’t have to fix it, I don’t have to have all the answers, but how can I show empathy, how can I reach out to those that are oppressed and hurt?”
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