On Tuesday afternoon, the Detroit Lions announced as an entire team that they were cancelling training camp practice for the day in protest against the shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
It was an emotional scene as Duron Harmon, Trey Flowers and Taylor Decker spoke in front of the Allen Park facility with a whiteboard proudly proclaiming, “We won’t be silent” on one said and “The world can’t go on!” on the other.
The team stood side-by-side for over six minutes before Matthew Stafford, Harmon, Flowers and head coach Matt Patricia spoke with the media for another 30 via a Zoom call.
However, the conversation didn’t end there. Lions players immediately took to social media to continue the message online and let their individual voices be heard. From current players to past, the message was clear: We need change.
Here are their unfiltered messages. First, starting with the scene outside Allen Park, courtesy of MLive.com:
Here is the video of the press conferences with Stafford, Harmon, Flowers and Patricia:
If you’re more into reading, the Detroit Lions offered this transcript of Matt Patricia’s portion of the press conference:
“Good afternoon. I don’t really know exactly what I have to say other than the fact that – I do know that when I got into coaching a number of years ago and decided to coach football and leave engineering – one of the biggest things to me and the biggest factors for me was trying to make a difference in people’s lives and trying to just really be there. I know certainly that the coaches in my life helped me grow as a young person, and certainly my dad who was a coach – that was big also. Something that just as a coach it’s great– football is great; I love it; it’s my passion; it’s everything that I think about all the time is competing at the highest level, but it’s about people; it’s about relationships. It’s about trying to help those who need help in any facet whether if it’s on or off the field, and it’s to listen. This is a pretty special team. We have a great group of guys. We have amazing leaders in that locker room, and really, they’re all leaders in what they do every day.
“Football is of the utmost importance, that is absolutely true, but we started some conversations in the spring that I think were pretty impactful for everybody involved. It’s hard to feel that or understand that through Zoom, but we were on those Zoom meetings and talk for hours about things and people and life and got to know each other very intimately. I think the bond that was created over that was pretty special. We come into camp (and) obviously it’s the first time we’re all together, and the team has been working really hard. We walk into another situation today where I think everybody thought it wasn’t about football today. I think everyone had heavy hearts and everyone had thoughts and conversation – I guess for myself; I didn’t really feel right about going into practice, about going out there trying to run some football drill with just talking to our team. As far as I’m concerned, when things are hard in the world, there’s two things that I check: First is my family, and then the second is this football team and the guys in that locker room and making sure that everybody is OK. That was my mindset walking in today was just to make sure that everybody was OK. Honestly, there was a long conversation and a lot of listening. Again, Trey Flowers said something in the spring to me that was so, so impactful to me. He just said, ‘It could be so simple, just listen.’ It’s something that stuck with me and certainly was on my mind this morning. I just wanted to listen, and there was some amazing, amazing conversation.
“I just give credit to my players for being open and caring for each other and loving each other enough to have that conversation, to share, to trust, to have that space to speak and to listen. I know there’s the football-side of it, but quite frankly, if we made a difference or if we impacted people that affects them in the long run – you know, football is only for so long. So I think that was what was important for us today. I’m just proud of our guys, the players in that locker room, for speaking and leading. This is a player-led team, there’s no doubt. These guys great; they are super intelligent, super smart and they have some amazing things to say that, quite frankly, I just have to listen and follow. That’s really what started today and that’s kind of where we are right now. (I’m) just proud of our players. I challenge everybody to do this. I challenge everybody in the League to do it – to go out there and continue these conversations and to listen. Those are real stories. I think when the guys pour their heart out – you have 80 men, 100 men, coaches, whatever it is, in a room and people are pouring their heart out as far as how they feel and feelings across the board, but really also expressing the vulnerability that goes behind some of those feelings – it’s impactful. We want to be a part of the solution. I’ll open it up to questions.”
On if he anticipated these conversations happening today: “Honestly for the most part, I’m in my own little bubble here in the football world and sometimes I miss things that happen. It was one of those things that I heard something last night and then when I got into the building this morning, and really started to look and see and listen to what was going on. Honestly my thoughts and my heart were on that subject and that subject alone. I didn’t necessarily know what direction I was going to go with that, but like I said, thankfully for our players, they helped lead that.”
On how proud he is of the players: “There’s not even words to express that, right? Talk about brave. 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’s – 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.”
On what the next step is: “I don’t know if I have a really good answer for you right now, other than I know the first thing is just listening and making sure that we’re paying attention to what’s being said. We have a lot of young guys with some great ideas and some thoughts, and certainly we’ll continue to try to put our words into actions and try to make a difference. If just by today and the conversations we had this morning and (in) the locker room and hopefully what we were able to put out, if that affects one person and helps one person then it’s worth it. We’re continuing to just put those ideas and thoughts together and try to just keep getting the stories out there. I think that’s the biggest thing. Like I said, maybe there’s a chain reaction here that’s starting with some of the other teams and maybe it pushes forward that way which will be great.”
On what he can take from the NBA and their approach to these issues to make it a more packageable message for the NFL: “It’s good. I’m probably out of the loop on the NBA as far as some of that stuff. I see what’s just kind of out there. I know for us, just to be honest with you, what’s really important as a group is – Taylor Decker spoke about it too – we always look at football as life. For us, we relate everything to football, and certainly the lessons that we learn in football, I always like to apply those to life. But one of the things that stares us in the face every single day is that is if you take a group of men from all different backgrounds, every different part of the country, every different journey, every different story, and put them in a locker room and have one common goal and everyone pushes for it and the family atmosphere that we create – why isn’t that like there everywhere? That’s pretty powerful, pretty amazing statement. I think we just kind of look at our situation and try to do the best we can to get our message out there from that standpoint, not really sure from an NBA standpoint.”
And here is how Lions players and coaches reacted on social media:
Enough is enough. Grateful to be apart of an organization that cares deeply about the change that we want to make in this world and fully supports us in doing what is necessary in order to make that change happen.… https://t.co/huDTpILEwG— Jason Cabinda (@jasoncabinda) August 25, 2020
It’s gotta stop. Multiple trained officers can’t subdue one man? So you shoot him 7 times? BS https://t.co/GFBMbnQidH— Ty Johnson (@T_Johns6) August 25, 2020
I stand with my brothers!! UNITED!!! ✊ https://t.co/8xQbTlviFo— Jahlani Tavai (@tavai31) August 25, 2020
We can’t just go on and ignore the obvious issues in front of us. We can’t let ourselves become numb to the fact that unarmed black men are being publicly executed by cops. Why must it come to that? There must be change! https://t.co/loCjEZAXSR— Chris Lacy II (@Gifted_CLacy) August 25, 2020
TOGETHER. It’s more to life than football. https://t.co/Opw1yE3FfS— Austin Bryant (@_austinbryant7) August 25, 2020
Can’t be numb to what’s going on. It’s bigger than football. Black lives matter!! https://t.co/l8hdJmchg1— Romeo Okwara (@RomeoND45) August 25, 2020
Never been more proud to be a part of the @Lions family than I am today— Dan Orlovsky (@danorlovsky7) August 25, 2020