GREEN BAY, Wis. – There will be protests. Just what they’ll entail hasn’t been determined, but NFL players intend to ratchet up the pressure in their quest for societal change.
“Protesting has been going on since land before time, man. Forever,” Green Bay Packers lineman Billy Turner said during a lengthy conversation about racial issues after Friday’s practice. “It’s not going to stop this year. If anything, it’s going to be more profound, more noticed this year. What exactly is going to be done? That’s up for discussion between teams. That’s up for discussion between every individual.”
On his radio show on Tuesday, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he’d like to continue what his team has done in the past: kneeling before the anthem but standing during it.
That’s not even a protest in Turner’s mind.
“Protesting the national anthem is to get a point across that society and everyone watching football games every Sunday has a chance to see so you get your point across,” he continued. “The idea of protesting is to make people that are higher up – like our president – notice what we are doing. We understand that (President Trump) doesn’t like that. Why do you think we continue to protest? Because nothing has changed.”
Jacob Blake was killed by Kenosha police on Sunday night. On Monday, Packers coach Matt LaFleur spoke with disgust about the shooting. The big push happened on Wednesday, when the Milwaukee Bucks boycotted their NBA playoff game against Orlando. On Thursday, after a meeting with his leadership council and entire team, LaFleur decided to cancel practice.
“I support the Bucks because it’s right here at home,” linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “Being a professional athlete for your state is not just going out there and trying to win championships, going out there and performing at a high level, but it’s also taking responsibility to be a voice of your community. And I think that for the Bucks taking a stand like they did in an important time of the playoffs and them trying to win a championship … it’s real life that’s going on outside of playing a game that we love. I tip my hat off to them because they’re showing their community that they care. They’re showing their people that it’s bigger than basketball. It’s bigger than football. It’s bigger than sports. It’s about the human race.”
All three players who spoke on Friday, Turner, Kirksey and safety Adrian Amos, credited the Packers’ upper management of Mark Murphy, Brian Gutekunst and Russ Ball for having an “open door” and listening to the frank discussions.
“When your organization backs you and supports you, I feel that bodes well in the future in getting things accomplished,” Amos said.
What apparently isn’t on the table is a Bucks-style boycott by the Packers for their Week 1 game at Minnesota in 16 days. That, Turner said, would be counterproductive to the cause.
“Everything has been thrown out there, as far as what to do, how to protest, how to make change,” Turner said as part of the accompanying video. “Yeah, we can go out there and boycott football games. Sure, we can do that. That’s easy. What change is that going to bring initially and right away? Football fans across the country and the world pissed off because they can’t watch football, what is that negativity going to bring to the world because we’re not out there playing this game? I don’t know that that necessarily creates change initially.
“The system that is so brutally and utterly ruining everything that is freedom in this country is what needs to change and there’s a strategic way that I think you attack that from the feet. You take the legs out, you work your way up and you try to make change that way and I think there is a strategic way that can happen.”