NASHVILLE – Mike Vrabel admits that he did not see the issue clearly.
For the last two days, though, the Tennessee Titans coach decided to listen. In an unscheduled address to the local media, he indicated that team meetings this week have included a great deal of discussion about current events, particularly the death of George Floyd while in custody of Minneapolis police officers and the public protests that have followed.
“I’d like to acknowledge a social blind-spot that either I was unaware of or chose not to see,” Vrabel said. “I’ve had the unbelievable opportunity to listen to our players the last two days in our team meetings. Listen to them with an open mind and hear and learn what they believe in and how they feel.
“… And by listening and understanding those thoughts and feelings and how they feel has helped me recognize – I think – what’s important. And what’s important is that we find ways to respect each others’ feelings, that we respect each others’ beliefs, that we respect each others’ efforts to make positive change in our community where we work, the communities where we live and the communities where we grew up.”
Three assistant coaches – all of defense – were scheduled to meet with the media Tuesday afternoon, and they did so. The discussed a variety of issues related to the team, the coaching staff and individual players.
At the start, however, Vrabel joined the video conference and delivered an address that lasted just shy of four minutes and departed without taking questions. In his remarks, he talked about the definition of leadership, the role race relations play in a sports locker room and his vision for how the social issues that currently dominate the conversation and can be resolved.
Roughly two hours earlier the team's official Twitter account posted an item that showed players gathered in an on-field huddle and included a caption that denounced racism.
“Being an only child of a basketball coach, playing for the Ohio State Buckeyes, Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs afforded me a great luxury of seeing how successful locker rooms are built and managed,” he said. “They’re built and managed on fair competition, love, loyalty, accountability, teamwork. What they’re not built on is race, creed, color or money.
“… After the past couple days of personal reflection and some really great conversations with our owner, Miss Amy [Adams Strunk], and our general manager, Jon Robinson, and most especially our football team, … I’d like to acknowledge my own personal privilege, one that’s real. … Amy, Jon and myself have tried to put great people and great fathers and great husbands and great student-athletes on to our football team. And the majority of those men are African American, with a much different experience and background than I’ll ever know.”
He finished with a not-so-subtle challenge to government officials at all levels.
“I would say that – in closing – leaders are prepared, leaders take decisive action and inspire a group of people towards a common goal,” Vrabel said. “That common goal is inclusion, diversity, equality, opportunity. So, on behalf of the Tennessee Titans – our owner, our general manager, the head football coach, our staff – we want to support and will continue to help lead our players as we work towards that common goal.”