June 02, 2020
Whenever there's a big issue in our country — specifically one that involves violence, death or destruction — celebrities, corporate brands and even sports teams are always quick to offer their "thoughts and prayers." And recently, with all three ravaging the country following another murder of an African American man, George Floyd, at the hands of police, there has been no shortage or this.
Over the weekend, the Sixers released a statement while one of their players, Tobias Harris, marched with protesters in Philadelphia, giving their call to action a bit more substance. In the days since, we've only seen the tension and violence around the nation escalate. And given that the Eagles are one of the most progressive teams in sports — and have a forward-thinking owner that empowers his players, like former safety Malcolm Jenkins, who was still in Philly protesting over the weekend despite signing with the Saints this offseason — it was a bit surprising that it took them until Tuesday afternoon to offer up their own "thoughts and prayers."
But as far as these statements go, the one from owner Jeffrey Lurie was a pretty powerful one.
Statement from Jeffrey Lurie, Chairman/CEO pic.twitter.com/Qwp7RZ9ofT— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) June 2, 2020
And there's a good reason for that — as well as for the delay in the Eagles releasing a statement, something I was perhaps too critical of on Twitter earlier on Tuesday. According to ESPN's Tim McManus, Lurie joined the Eagles team meeting on Monday to discuss the current unrest in the nation as it again reckons with the systemic racism that seems to be getting worse, not better.
Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie opened a team discussion on racial issues along with coach Doug Pederson Monday amid nationwide unrest following the death of George Floyd in late May.
Lurie does not typically take part in the Eagles' virtual team meetings, but asked to be involved under these circumstances to both show his support and learn more about the players' experiences and emotions. He stressed that Eagles players are extended family, and families deal with things together.
What followed was what participants described as "powerful" dialogue led by the players, with wide receiver DeSean Jackson, quarterback Carson Wentz, safety Rodney McLeod, defensive tackle Malik Jackson and tight end Zach Ertz among those who addressed the team. Eagles coaches joined the conversation, as well. [ESPN]
McManus added that DeSean Jackson was "particularly moving" and even caused veterans like Jason Kelce to post his thoughts on social media.
If this is what was behind the Eagles lagging behind the other pro teams in voicing their support of those fighting for equality, then that's as good a reason as any. Part of the issue here, as former Eagles linebacker pointed out in an amazing 10-minute clip of his new Twitter show, "Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man," part of the problem is that much of the power in this country, especially when it comes to racial inequality, is in the hands of white people. And until white people change the way we think, talk and act, then there can be no real, meaningful change.
Lurie, as the owner of one of the NFL's most prominent teams, is certainly someone capable of bringing about change, even if he isn't a politician or policy-maker. And simply listening to the different perspectives of the players, especially those who have dealt with racism first-hand, is definitely the first step. Lurie admitted as much in his statement, which was clearly impacted by the conversations he had with the players a day earlier.
"Many of us, myself included, cannot truly understand the burden of a weight we have never had to carry through life," Lurie said. "We must at least try, as best we can, to imagine ourselves as the person who is hurting, neglected and oppressed.
"It is our shared responsibility to address the pain and combat systemic racism. There is so much we can all do to improve our unequal system of justice, our schools and our communities. This is a time for leadership. A time for us to be united in action.
"I am both encouraged and inspired listening to our players and so many others who are dedicated to coming together as people who embrace our shared humanity. We must all continue to have these discussions and turn them into concrete action in order to help foster lasting social change. In the coming days, weeks, months and years, I am dedicated to engaging in dialogue with community leaders, committing our resources to support organizations working on reform, and using our platform to play an active role in the change we must achieve."
As the country appears to be unraveling, words can only do so much. But that doesn't make them hollow or meaningless. An ongoing dialogue is one of the things that is mandatory in times like this, even if it will only get us so far with so many unwilling to listen to anything the other side has to say.
Still, it's a start.
On a related note, the Phillies and Flyers also released statements on Tuesday...
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