Lions cancel practice to protest police shooting

  • Previously covered University of Michigan for ESPN.com and AnnArbor.com
  • Also covered Notre Dame for Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — The Detroit Lions canceled practice Tuesday to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. They addressed reporters as a team in front of their building to deliver a message that they will be part of the change in the United States against police brutality.

Three Lions players — safety Duron Harmon, defensive end Trey Flowers and offensive tackle Taylor Decker — addressed the media to explain their decision and share why, when they entered the building Tuesday, they felt football wasn’t as important as speaking out and sending a message that what happened to Blake and many others in this country is not OK.

“As a team, we looked each other in the eyes and realized that football isn’t important today,” Harmon said. “We have a platform that we are able to use not just to raise awareness but to create change.”

Blake, a Black man, was shot by police on Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as he tried to enter the driver’s side door of his vehicle. Officers were responding to a domestic disturbance. Blake’s father, also named Jacob Blake, told ABC News that he was told his son was shot eight times and is paralyzed from the waist down. Doctors do not know if the paralysis will be permanent.

Video of the shooting, taken from a window across the street, was distributed on social media and shared by Blake’s attorney, Ben Crump.

Harmon said the Lions will do everything they can to win football games — but they’ll do “everything we can to bring change as well.” The Lions brought out a whiteboard with two phrases written on it: “The World Can’t Go On” and “We Won’t Be Silent.”

“We can’t be silent,” Flowers said. “We can’t say silent. We cannot be going on in the world with our regular day. So today, unified we stand here and we came up with these words, these slogans, and we spread the message, spread the word.”

The Lions, Decker said, had “some really real conversations” Tuesday morning during which he heard real pain and fear from teammates. Decker, who is white, relayed a story from one of his teammates, who said his mother calls to check on him daily to make sure he got home.

Decker then thought about how he drove home recently with a headlight out. He has an Arizona license and Michigan plate and “not for one second was I concerned about my safety.” So hearing his teammates’ stories resonated with him.

“We had some really, real conversations as a team,” Decker said. “I’m fortunate to be in a locker room with white, Black, brown, different socioeconomic backgrounds, guys from all over the country and they are guys that I care about.

“…Just to hear the pain and fear from people that I care about, people that I love, are going through; I know it’s not my reality but they shouldn’t have to go through that. They shouldn’t have to have that fear.”

Throughout their 10-minute address, Flowers, Harmon and Decker stressed wanting to be the change and catalyst against police brutality and social injustice. Detroit has had personal experience with this as well, as safety Tracy Walker is the cousin of Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot and killed in Brunswick, Georgia, earlier this year.

The Lions are now choosing to try to change the world using their platform as football players. “The Detroit Lions will be the change. We won’t be silent,” Harmon said. “We will not become numb to police brutality and social injustice.”

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