Skins make abrupt turn on po­lice is­sues

Rivera is sup­port­ing play­ers’ ef­forts to spur change for blacks

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - SPORTS - BY MICHAEL PHILLIPS

If 2020 is the year to ex­pect the un­ex­pected, the past week at Red­skins Park cer­tainly fits the cri­te­ria.

In a turn of events that would have been seen as laugh­able just a year ago, the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins have emerged as one of the NFL’s most pro­gres­sive voices on the is­sue of po­lice bru­tal­ity.

Yes, those Wash­ing­ton Red­skins. The team whose owner do­nated $1 mil­lion to Donald Trump’s in­au­gu­ral fund and was run, un­til last De­cem­ber, by Bruce Allen, brother of for­mer GOP sen­a­tor Ge­orge Allen. The team whose for­mer coach, Jay Gru­den, promised that his play­ers would stand at at­ten­tion dur­ing the na­tional an­them. The team whose mas­cot has been con­tro­ver­sial.

The change ar­rived with new lead­er­ship, as new coach Ron Rivera as­sumed con­trol of the en­tire build­ing when he

was hired in Jan­uary.

Three of the Red­skins stars have been out front in call­ing for change. Quar­ter­back Dwayne Hask­ins marched with pro­tes­tors in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., de­fen­sive end Chase Young was on a video where some of the NFL’s big­gest names de­manded a bet­ter state­ment of sup­port from com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell, and run­ning back Adrian Peter­son de­clared his in­ten­tion to kneel dur­ing the na­tional an­them this sea­son.

On Wed­nes­day, Rivera sup­ported all three, and an­nounced the or­ga­ni­za­tion would be go­ing fur­ther to cre­ate last­ing change in the black com­mu­nity.

He is creating a town hall pro­gram to en­sure that mi­nor­ity voices are heard across the or­ga­ni­za­tion, from the play­ers to the ticket sales rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Rivera is also creating a “black en­gage­ment net­work” to pro­mote pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment and men­tor­ing across the re­gion, and an­nounced that team owner Dan Sny­der will be pro­vid­ing $250,000 of seed money, as well as his full sup­port, to launch the ini­tia­tives.

Rivera said he sup­ported any player’s right to peace­fully protest, not­ing that he went through a sim­i­lar dis­cus­sion process when he signed Eric Reid, one of the first play­ers to join Colin Kaeper­nick in protest, in Carolina.

“One thing I did be­fore we signed Eric, and I did it again last week, was that I read the Con­sti­tu­tion, the Bill of Rights, the amend­ments and the oath of of­fice, just so I un­der­stood ev­ery­thing that I needed to go­ing into the sit­u­a­tion,” he said.

“When Eric and I talked, it was an eye-opener for ev­ery­one. It also helped me to re­ally un­der­stand what the protest was about in terms of tak­ing a knee. It had noth­ing to do with our mil­i­tary, noth­ing to do with our first re­spon­ders, noth­ing to do with the flag. It had ev­ery­thing to do with so­cial in­jus­tice and bru­tal­ity, po­lice bru­tal­ity and work­ing to get that cor­rected.

“I was fine with it be­cause of what I had read and be­cause of what the Con­sti­tu­tion said and what the Bill of Rights talked about. The right to free­dom, life and lib­erty. It is there, it talks about the rights that we have.

It is their choice, their de­ci­sion. I sup­port it be­cause it is in our Con­sti­tu­tion. That is what our mil­i­tary per­son­nel fought for. For our rights and for our safety.”

Rivera said he un­der­stands his re­spon­si­bil­ity as the leader of the or­ga­ni­za­tion, and wanted to make sure he com­mu­ni­cated with all em­ploy­ees in­side the or­ga­ni­za­tion be­fore putting out an out­ward-fac­ing state­ment.

“I want to make sure that peo­ple un­der­stand that we, that I, sup­port the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment, that I want to lis­ten to our play­ers and lis­ten to our em­ploy­ees and coaches and make sure we get this right,” he said. “Be­cause of how long the peace­ful protests have gone on, real change is within our grasp. We’ve seen it with some of the gov­ern­men­tal moves in cities like Min­nesota. I just think that there is a chance to do good right now.”

Hask­ins felt the same op­por­tu­nity, as well as the abil­ity to lis­ten and learn, when he made the de­ci­sion to join the pro­tes­tors in Wash­ing­ton.

The quar­ter­back did not ap­pear as a fea­tured speaker or guest, but rather as a reg­u­lar at­tendee.

He said he has been a vic­tim of pro­fil­ing by po­lice, who have asked him about whether he has drugs when he has been pulled over for a traf­fic stop, and wanted to lend his sup­port.

“I was try­ing to think of a way that was more close to heart, more gen­uine,” he said. “In­stead of me just mak­ing a tweet or do­ing a video, I wanted to go to the ac­tual protest and talk to the peo­ple who were there, be in that at­mos­phere there, un­der­stand and hear the hearts that are cry­ing out for help.”

He said he was thank­ful to re­ceive the bless­ing and sup­port of his coach and the or­ga­ni­za­tion — some­thing that he, as just a se­cond-year player, un­der­stands wasn’t al­ways a given in Wash­ing­ton.


Red­skins run­ning back Adrian Peter­son (cen­ter), seen speak­ing to re­porters in Jan­uary, de­clared he will kneel dur­ing the na­tional an­them this sea­son.

Red­skins coach Ron Rivera is tak­ing steps to en­sure that mi­nor­ity voices are heard in the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

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