- Previously worked at Indianapolis Star, covering the Indiana Pacers for nine seasons
- Also covered Vikings for St. Paul Pioneer Press
INDIANAPOLIS — Colts general manager Chris Ballard on Thursday held an unscripted, impromptu and passionate virtual call where he emphasized there has to be an end to social injustice and racial inequalities.
“This is not a black problem,” Ballard said during the nearly 20-minute call. “This is a white problem. This is an issue that we have to talk about and we can’t sugarcoat it. We can’t sugarcoat our way out of this. We can’t go back into our bubble because that’s what we’ve always done. We’ve always gone right back into our bubble and we’ve never really listened. I haven’t listened.”
Ballard said a couple times during the call that he was not there to talk about football, and that his sole purpose of the unscheduled meeting with the media was to talk about what’s going on in the country following the death of George Floyd.
Floyd, a black man, was killed in Minneapolis on May 25 after police officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, kept his knee pressed on the back of Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.
Chauvin’s charge was upgraded to unintentional second-degree murder, while the other three officers — Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao — have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, according to criminal complaints.
Floyd’s death has sparked a number of protest, some that have turned ugly, in different cities around the country, including Indianapolis.
“I can’t sit here and remain silent because that’s exactly what we’ve done every time our black community screams and yells for help,” Ballard said. “We have to end social injustice and racial inequalities. We have to end the police violence against our black communities.
“Black lives matter. I don’t know why that’s so freaking hard for the white community to say. Black lives matter. I’ve been ignorant. I’ve been ignorant to the real problem. And I’m ashamed of that. I came to the realization of that over the last 10 days.”
Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians encouraged those protesting to take a step forward with their action.
“Don’t just go back to being silent, because then it’s gonna happen again.” Arians said. “It’s sickening. We all know when we see something that’s horrific and wrong. … There are times when I think we haven’t made any progress since 1968 when the National Guard was rolling down the streets of my hometown, and watching what went on then — the murder of Dr. [Martin Luther] King [Jr.] and Bobby Kennedy. [Have] we improved since then?
“But a lot has. And I think right now — I love the fact that people are upset and they’re raising their voices, but don’t stop. It’s one thing to march and protest, but it’s another thing to take action. When the protesting’s over, I would urge everybody to take action, do something positive to help the situation.”
The Colts have held a virtual open forum with their players since the Floyd incident.
Quarterback Jacoby Brissett, according to Ballard, said to the team that, “You’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem.”
“It is easy to be silent and do nothing when it doesn’t directly impact you,” Colts coach Frank Reich said earlier this week. “his attitude simply doesn’t evoke any conviction about doing what is right and standing up for the inherent dignity and rights of all people no matter the color of their skin. …
“Racism is vile, deplorable, detestable. There is no form of it that is acceptable and in no way can it be justified. Our black community has bore the brunt of this injustice far too long. I believe that I, we, all have a personal responsibility to speak up and to act in ways that build each other up, not tear each other down.”
Ballard isn’t playing innocent. He acknowledge that he didn’t fully listen in 2017 — a year after quarterback Colin Kaepernick started taking a knee to protest during the national anthem. Ballard failed to take in the message from former Colts defensive back Darius Butler when the two tried to address the issue.
“We didn’t listen,” Ballard said. “I didn’t listen in ’17. I love Darius Butler. He tried to explain it. I thought I heard it. I didn’t hear it. We didn’t listen.”
Ballard was asked if he would look at things differently if his players decide to kneel during the anthem next season.
“Whatever we decide to do, we’re going to do it as a team,” Ballard said. “That’s the beauty of that locker room. I understand why people took a knee. I didn’t completely understand the first time, but damn right I do now.”
ESPN’s Jenna Laine contributed to this report.
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