BLAKE INCIDENT ALARMS BEARS
Players, Nagy, organization share outrage after shooting in Kenosha
Perhaps it’s damning of current events that in three months, a football coach has had the occasion to measure the reaction of his players to two police attacks on unarmed Black men.
But Bears coach Matt Nagy noticed when talking to his team Tuesday about the Jacob Blake shooting by Kenosha, Wisconsin, police, that he had a different view than he did during their Zoom meeting in the wake of George Floyd’s killing.
“You can see the second-bysecond headshakes, understanding and agreeing,” said Nagy, who huddled his players after practice to discuss the shooting. “And if somebody wants to talk, they don’t have to hit the space bar.”
Blake was shot multiple times in the back with his children nearby Sunday night. Halas Hall is only 31 miles south of Kenosha. Blake attended Evanston Township High School, another 22 miles south.
“Being so close to where we are at right now,” Nagy said, “we’re thinking about him and his family and want nothing but the best for him.”
Blake represents another highprofile case, less than three months after Floyd was asphyxiated by Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck for eight minutes.
“With all the notoriety and attention that has been given to police brutality, you’d think it would slow down a little bit and not still be the main topic every day when you wake up and see it on the news,” running back Tarik Cohen said. “It’s crazy that we still see those same things happening in today’s world. It’s great to be on a team that openly speaks about that.”
The Lions decided to cancel Tuesday’s practice. Instead, their players told the media that football didn’t feel as important as using their platform to speak out.
In a statement late Tuesday, the Bears franchise said it was “deeply disturbed by yet another instance of a police officer using excessive force against a Black person,” calling Blake “the latest name added to a list that tragically continues to grow.”
“We will continue to use our voice and resources to be a proponent of change, and we support the efforts of all those who are peacefully fighting for equality and the end of systemic racism in our communities,” the team said.
After the Floyd killing, the Bears held a two-hour Zoom meeting for 139 players and staff. About 40 spoke. Nagy said then that the conversations spurred “anger, fear, disgust, sadness, compassion, hurt and, even at times, surprise.” Nagy called it the most powerful meeting he’d been a part of.
The Bears spoke then about using their platform to push for change. The challenge stands.
“With our team going through this before, [we’re] able to understand how we react to it now and how we do it together,” Nagy said. ”Just knowing, too, that we are all here to listen. Every one of us is here to listen. And keep that word ‘love.’ ”
Left tackle Charles Leno said he wants to work with the Bears’ community-relations department to reach out to citizens of Kenosha “because they’re so close to us.” He believes athletes can help spread awareness, compassion and understanding for others.
“And also I just believe police training, too,” he said. “I don’t know how many hours those guys do. But I know we train a lot on the football field. I think they need a little bit more because they’re dealing with lives, and they’re handling lives. And every single life is precious.”
Gun violence of any kind must end, cornerback Buster Skrine said.
“And everybody wants it to stop, no matter what color you are — black, white, any race,” he said. “Everybody just hopes it gets fixed. You don’t want this to keep snowballing and carrying on for years and years and years.”
“It’s very disturbing for everybody,” Nagy said. “And it has to stop.”
Volunteers pitch in to help with cleanup in Kenosha, Wis., on Tuesday after another night of rioting stemming from the shooting of Jacob Blake.