NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Titans decided that they would join six other NFL franchises on Thursday by cancelling practice to peacefully protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.
The New York Jets, Green Bay Packers, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, Washington Football team and Arizona Cardinals also opted not to take the field in solidarity against racial injustice.
“We felt, as players and as an organization, that it was right to not practice today,” Tennessee safety Kevin Byard said via a collective team statement on Zoom. “We feel that, with all the recent events that have taken place in this country, not only this year, not only the past year but the past hundreds of years, we decided that it is time to take a stand today.”
Blake, an African American in Kenosha, was shot seven times by a police officer on Sunday as he attempted to enter the driver’s side door of his vehicle. The Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation said Blake admitted to having a knife in his possession that law enforcement agents said they recovered a knife from the driver’s side floorboard of Blake’s vehicle. The official police version of events leaves cause for outrage given the holes left in the timeline, a lack of indication as to why police initially attempted to arrest Blake, whether Blake threatened to or attempted to use the knife mentioned in the report, or why officer Rusten Sheskey fired seven shots into Blake’s back.
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— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) August 27, 2020
Video taken of the incident went viral on social media, evoking emotions and outpourings from athletes demanding action. The Milwaukee Bucks were the first to take their collective protest public, by opting not to play in Game 5 of their NBA Playoff series against the Orlando Magic Wednesday evening. Milwaukee sparked a chain reaction across professional sports, prompting the postponement of six total NBA postseason contests, four MLB games, and several MLS matches.
The reaction to players taking a stand has been equal parts refreshing and predictable. One side rallies against the cause as anti-American while the other cries out for morality and equality. What the Titans, the NFL, the NBA, MLS, MLB and others have show us is that the athletes are committed to this cause as a movement over a moment.
To make people uncomfortable is to help further progress and sports consistently proves itself to be the best platform to do so.
“I don’t think we’re gonna sit there and try to change everybody,” said coach Mike Vrabel. “That’s why our team wants to focus on the children and youth in Middle Tennessee…We’ve focused, as a team, on trying to change the next generation. You can’t change people or help people that don’t want to be helped.”
Tennessee took a stand today for its community and against one of the many societal ills that has plagued this country since its inception. Four years and one day removed from former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling, the Titans planted themselves firmly on the right side of history.