For 2020 Lions, Bringing about Change Is More Important than Football

Read more on the significance of the Detroit Lions decision to cancel practice Tuesday.
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2020 has been far from a normal year. 

The coronavirus pandemic has altered seemingly everyone's way of life, while social unrest has transcended nearly every sector of American society, including the sports world. 

The high degree of unrest has caused athletes from all walks of life to speak out in opposition of the examples of racial inequality and police brutality existent in the United States today.

The Detroit Lions have been no different.

They've realized that enough is enough and that silence is no longer acceptable in a day and age when African Americans are still being senselessly targeted and brutalized and sometimes even killed -- as in the case of George Floyd, an unarmed, 46-year-old African American man, back in May -- by police officers.

The latest example of such an act of violence directed at a Black man was the shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake.

Blake, who was unarmed, was shot seven times in the back by police in Kenosha, Wis., on Aug. 23, as he was reportedly trying to get back into his car -- where his three children were waiting for him in the back seat. 

According to The New York Times, Blake "had been trying to break up an argument when police arrived."

The shooting has left him paralyzed from the waist down, according to his family. 

The Lions know there's no place in our country for such egregious mistreatment of Black men and women by law enforcement, and they decided to cancel practice on Tuesday to showcase that they stood in solidarity with Blake and his family. 

They took the day to talk about the incident as a team and to openly express to reporters that they do not condone what happened to Blake and that they want to be voices of change going forward in the movement to end police brutality.

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"As a team, we looked each other in the eyes, and realized that football isn't important today," Detroit safety Duron Harmon said Tuesday, as he stood with the rest of his team in front of the organization's practice facility in Allen Park. "We have a platform that we are able to use not just to raise awareness but to create change."

Football had no presence in the day's conversations, and the players collectively made the decision not to practice in order to further the dialogue about what they can do to make a difference in the world.

"Everybody was just gathered around, and we're just trying to figure out what we can do to not only bring light to the situation of what happened and how it's wrong, with police brutality," Harmon said during a video conference with Detroit media after the team's unified demonstration. "But, how can we, as a team, create change not only amongst ourselves but amongst the community so when things like this happen, we're speaking on it and putting the pressure on officials to do the right thing and prosecute these officers to the fullest extent."

It was a powerful act for Harmon and his teammates -- individuals of all different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds -- to stand as one and to put football on the backburner as the start of the regular season nears. 

Even more impressively, all of this comes after having completed an offseason in which there were no OTAs or minicamp to get ready for training camp through. 

There are also no preseason games. So, every single practice brings with it an added degree of importance. 

Yet, the Lions delayed the start of Week 2 of padded training camp practice for a day, and in doing so, showcased their commitment to making a change within the community and within our country.

Detroit head coach Matt Patricia certainly took notice to his team's dedication to making a difference off the field. 

"Talk about brave," Patricia commented during a video conference with Lions media Tuesday. "Guys going out there and certainly young men who are much more involved with the social media world (more) than I am. They all know there's immediate feedback. They all know there's immediate response. But, the strength and the power and unity, I think that was unbelievable today.

"This team -- the group of men that we have in that locker room -- that's a good group of men. I love those guys. We obviously understand the football side of it, but, it's not about football today."

The conversation is just beginning for the Lions, and they don't intend on being silenced by anyone along the way, in their pursuit of putting an end to widespread racial injustice.

And guess what, because of it, they're a better organization today than they were at the start of the week.