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Play­ers, Nagy, or­ga­ni­za­tion share out­rage af­ter shoot­ing in Kenosha

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - PA­TRICK FIN­LEY pfin­ley@suntimes.com | @patrick­fin­ley

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.”

Nagy agreed.

“It’s very dis­turb­ing for ev­ery­body,” Nagy said. “And it has to stop.”

AP

Vol­un­teers pitch in to help with cleanup in Kenosha, Wis., on Tues­day af­ter an­other night of ri­ot­ing stem­ming from the shoot­ing of Ja­cob Blake.

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