PHILADELPHIA – A very soulful Jeffrey Lurie spoke for about an hour Sunday evening, marking his first gathering with reporters – albeit virtually – since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
The Eagles owner spoke from his heart, and that came through loud and clear even with his face being beamed on laptops of those who cover the team and the NFL.
He talked about social issues and, of course, COVID-19, comparing the global pandemic and the death toll to five Boeing 737s crashing every day, roughly the equivalent, he said, to 1,000 Americans dying daily in August from the virus.
“We're able to socially distance better than any country or we have the potential to, we have lifesaving mechanisms more than any third-world country, but we are and have been the epicenter of exactly what has taken place,” said Lurie. “That's our history. We have to own this. We have to own the questions of leadership. We have to own the questions of policy, and there's a lot to be discussed here on that in the future.
“That's the reality I think we face. I'd rather just say it straight out from my heart. It's heartbreaking. These are needless deaths. Needless. We should be similar to most countries on this planet, and yet we are an embarrassment and a tragic embarrassment. That's where we stand.”
Lurie took questions on football, too.
Three of the most pertinent were his thoughts on whether the NFL can complete its season with the pandemic still roaring, DeSean Jackson’s antisemitic remarks earlier this summer, and fans in the stands.
Read John McMullen’s thoughts on Eagles training camp day 12 here, in the EagleMaven's Eagles Extra Plus page:
Lurie believes the league can complete all 16 regular-season games plus playoffs because of the protocols put in place by the NFL and the teams themselves. Lurie, though, added that the virus will control whether that is possible or not.
“We will do the very, very best we can as a league and as a team to try to keep everybody as safe as possible,” he said. “It's inevitable there's going to be ups and downs here, but I think we have a significant roster size, we have positional flexibility.
“We know going in that there's going to be some unusual games where players might be playing positions they've hardly ever played. But that's part of being a professional athlete. We embrace it.”
As for Jackson, Lurie did not hold back from social media posts the receiver made that had been attributed to Adolf Hitler. Jackson was given a chance to make amends by showing daily progress toward educating himself on the Holocaust and Jewish heritage.
“I thought the social media posts were disgusting and appalling,” said Lurie. “I don't think anybody can take it any other way. You're talking about a leader of a genocide, and it doesn't matter what it was a genocide of. Any leader of a genocide is one of the worst individuals and a member of a group of individuals that we've seen both in our lifetime and in history.
“I've known DeSean for a long time. Obviously, we all have. He has, I think, really understood the ramifications of that appalling post. So far, everything that we've asked him to do to both educate himself and to learn and take action, he's done completely. So, I would hope that would continue.
“I also think that in life, you have to understand fully where a person is coming from. I listened. I listened. It doesn't take away the hurt. It doesn't take away the words. But I think that with DeSean, he's doing the right things, and that has to continue. That's a daily event, and that's where that's at.”
Finally, fans in the stands. In Philadelphia, they are a no-no, while some NFL cities, such as Green Bay, Kansas City, and Dallas, are allowed to have a certain percentage of fans.
Lurie is holding out hope that at some point the City and team will come to an agreement to allow a percentage of fans at Lincoln Financial Field.
“We have been trying very, very hard to come up with solutions that are safe and innovative in time for the beginning of the season, and we've had a lot of really creative and constructive conversations with the state and the city, and that continues on a daily and weekly basis,” he said. “We are hopeful there's going to be real ways of having significant fans in our stadium pretty soon. Maybe not for September but after that, and we're looking at innovative ways of testing, with rapid testing, with point-of-care testing, with home testing.”
Like the NFL, Lurie does not believe that it is a competitive disadvantage for cities that allow fans to those that do not.
“Maybe there's an advantage for a team to have 10,000, 20,000 fans, but we're not going to let that stop us,” he said. “We embrace the situation. Do we really want to prevent those 20,000 fans in wherever it is to be unable to watch their team play because we're not able to have fans on the East Coast?
“I don't think so. Fans are the backbone of the sport. I really believe that. I wouldn't want to sit here and tell you that we're going to stop those fans in Arizona or wherever it is from attending if it's safe there just because we think there's some advantage. I'd rather have them enjoy our sport.”
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