With the NBA playoffs currently on hold as players, coaches and executives discuss how best to move forward in the wake of protests stemming from the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, NFL organizations have begun finding their own way to be a voice for change.
For some teams, that has meant canceling practice, issuing statements and more. And while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers plan to remain on the practice field as often as possible, head coach Bruce Arians was clear that getting involved should be a responsibility of everyone in the organization.
“I talked with some of our guys and we have a good social justice program and our committee is meeting,” Arians said. “If they wanna do something, we’ll do it, as long as it’s something that’s gonna have something to do with change, and not just taking a day off.
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“Your responsibility is to take action. I don’t know that protest is an action. I think each guy has a personal thing, and I would beg them to take action. Find a cause and either support it financially or do something to change the situation, because protesting doesn’t do crap in my opinion. I’ve been seeing that since 1968.”
While Arians’ opinion on protesting may not speak for everyone, running back LeSean McCoy shared his coach’s sentiment that canceling practice may not be the team’s best response.
“[The discussion on whether to hold practice or not] was short because we kinda start early here in Tampa to beat the sun, so we practice so much earlier than other teams would,” McCoy said. “But we’re hurt. We’re hurt that we’re seeing and that we constantly keep seeing this, and we want an answer. As a group, that’s something we have to talk about. What’s the best way to get our message across and be productive? We don’t want to just say these things, and say this, say that. We want to actually go out there and be productive, as a unit and as a group – all colors, all teammates, to try to make a difference. The tough part is that there is no real answer for those questions yet. Hopefully together we can send a message out, whatever that may be.
“B.A. talked about it today as a group. How can we find a solution or an answer to make our statement. Because I’m just not sure that not practicing – what does that do? We want to have a real stand. We want to paint a picture that everyone can understand and comprehend. That’s the tough part. But I think eventually as older guys on the team come together – we’ve been talking about it – but it’ll pick up more and hopefully we’ll have a great solution.”
McCoy, who is entering his 11th year in the NFL, joined the Bucs just over three weeks ago, but has already stepped into a role of spokesperson and leader in the team’s locker room. His veteran experience helps, as does his ability to put into words what many of his black teammates and other black people around the country are feeling in the wake of more police shootings.
“It’s tough, it really is,” McCoy said. “People forget that … obviously it’s a sport, and there are fans, etc. But this is our job. So we come here trying to do our job. It’s hard to overlook the things that have happened in our country. I love my country. But there’s some things that we can do better, and we all, especially a lot of the African-American players, we feel that. We come from those environments where it’s not safe, and where you kind of call the police if there’s an issue and hope that it’ll get resolved, and not resolved in killings. You just constantly keep seeing it and seeing it, and it’s not okay.
Bucs RB LeSean McCoy – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“So when we have these conversations, guys are emotional. We are who we are, right? We could be some of those people. That don’t really have a voice, or are losing their lives. It’s really tough. That’s the kind of conversation that, to be honest, is real touchy. And you keep seeing it. It’s one thing if you hear about it, but it’s actually on tape. And you can rewind it and rewind it and rewind it and see it. So it is tough, it’s tough to be a black kid and see that. So those are touchy topics.”
While the Bucs may not be canceling practice as a form of protest, McCoy was clear he doesn’t view silence or inaction as an option.
“I just don’t get it, I really don’t,” McCoy said. “The first time it happened, it’s wrong, right? But you keep doing it over and over and over again. It’s like, what did you learn from the last case? Killing a man is wrong. But the people after the fact, that keep watching and keep seeing it … it’s like you see what’s going on and people talking about it, people addressing it. They are making people more aware. And you still are killing innocent people, unarmed. Stuff like that is hard to understand, even [the Jacob Blake] video. I guess people were saying that the guy was going to the car, etc. There’s so many more things you could have did – tackle the guy, you had him outnumbered, tackle him. Taze him, something. But shooting him seven times? Come on man, that’s uncalled for. There’s no reason why he should’ve shot him seven times.
“I have a lot of cop friends that I’m close with, and we talked about these things, and I always ask them, ‘Man, in this situation or scenario, what would you have done?’ or ‘What should have happened?’ If a guy doesn’t have a weapon or you don’t see he has a weapon, drawing your weapon should never be the answer. And I look at that situation that recently just happened, and I think that they could’ve just tackled the guy. If you thought he was going to his car to get a weapon or whatever you thought, but not shoot him seven times, that’s uncalled for. Because that could’ve been your child. You gotta think about that as a cop. That could’ve been my son. That could’ve been his son. And you don’t want nobody treating your child that way. That’s just the hard part when you look at it, because you can get angry watching it over and over again. I struggle with that.”
Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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