NFL teams huddling up to devise plans for social change

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Sam Darnold watched as several of his New York Jets teammates took turns speaking, many of whom got emotional.

And, the quarterback did what he thought was his best play at that moment.

He listened.

“I took the time to understand it is different growing up Black in America,” Darnold said Saturday. “And I now understand that better.”

Darnold recalled how his parents always harped on him returning home before dark in Southern California so he didn’t get lost. He heard another not-so-sugarcoated side of that same curfew rule from his teammates.

“They were told, ‘Hey, make sure you’re home before dark or else something bad can happen,’” Darnold said. “That’s a different conversation than what my parents had with me.”

The Jets were one of nine NFL teams that canceled practice Thursday in wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Wisconsin last Sunday. Instead of taking the field, the entire team spent more than four hours talking about racial injustice and social issues.

The conversations — which included team president and CEO Christopher Johnson, general manager Joe Douglas and coach Adam Gase — were led by players detailing their experiences with racism, inequality and police brutality. They continued their discussions Friday, an off day, to begin devising plans to effect change among each other and in the community.

“One of the guys in the room was like, ’In order for us to help, we have to realize that this is a snowball and not an avalanche,’” said offensive lineman Jonotthan Harrison, who is Black. “We can’t just jump off the deep end and be like, attack this and do this and do this. No, we have to be very methodical and we have to approach it the right way, the safest way.”

Many teams around the league have had similar conversations — with topics ranging from equal rights to making sure players are registered to vote — in the days since Blake, 29, was left with paralysis after being shot in the back by a police officer.

The Seattle Seahawks canceled their scheduled practice Saturday after a lengthy team meeting. Coach Pete Carroll gave an impassioned speech while addressing reporters later in the day.

“Our players are screaming at us: ‘Can you feel me? Can you see me? Can you hear me?’” said Carroll, who is white. “They just want to be respected. They just want to be accepted. Just like all of our white children and families and want to be. It’s no different because we’re all the same.

“And there’s a lot of people that don’t see it that way, but there’s a lot of people that do.”

This content was originally published here.