“Practice?! We talking bout Practice!”
In 2002, Allen Iverson’s infamous rant reverberated throughout every corner of the sports stratosphere.
“Not the game, but we’re talking about practice, man. I mean, how silly is that?”
At the time, Iverson came off as a malcontent for undermining the necessity of being properly prepared for the game at hand. But on Tuesday, ESPN reports that the Detroit Lions skipped practice for a far more noble reason: to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wis.
Three Lions players — safety Duron Harmon, defensive end Trey Flowers and offensive tackle Taylor Decker — addressed the media to explain their decision and share why, when they entered the building Tuesday, they felt football wasn’t as important as speaking out and sending a message that what happened to Blake and many others in this country is not OK.
“As a team, we looked each other in the eyes and realized that football isn’t important today,” Harmon said. “We have a platform that we are able to use not just to raise awareness but to create change.”
Armed with a whiteboard with the phrases “The World Can’t Go On” and “We Won’t Be Silent” written on it, the Lions assembled in front of the team’s headquarters and expressed to the media how they’ll do what’s necessary to win games on the football field, but also do “everything we can to bring change as well.”
“We can’t be silent,” Flowers said. “We can’t say silent. We cannot be going on in the world with our regular day. So today, unified we stand here and we came up with these words, these slogans, and we spread the message, spread the word.”
He continued, “We are all brothers, the human race. We are all one, and once we realize that and overcome just the difference of skin color, the difference of culture, then we’ll start to love one another, treat others as they are us.”
In addition to protesting police brutality and racialized violence, the Lions announced that they’ve partnered with Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s Secretary of State, to “promote voter awareness and protect election integrity” ahead of November’s election. As part of this initiative, Ford Field will host receiving boards and secure ballots and equipment to ensure election results aren’t tampered with, Lions staff will serve as election workers in support of Ford Field’s Election Day efforts and players will be featured in PSAs that will focus on educating voters on mail-in balloting, how to fill out ballots properly and other important aspects of the voting process.
“We all desire real and lasting social change, racial healing, abundant opportunity for all, and meaningful social justice progress in many aspects of our democracy,” Detroit Lions Principal Owner and Team Chairman Sheila Ford Hamp and her husband, Steve Hamp, said in a joint statement. “For this to happen, for our democracy to be responsive and to improve, we all need to register to vote, learn about the candidates who are running for office, and then cast our votes in person or by absentee ballot. Our democracy is an inspiring and noble enterprise, but it is not perfect. It’s time to fix that.”
This initiative makes the Lions the first NFL team to volunteer their arena and staff in support of the upcoming election.
“Their leadership comes at a crucial time for our democracy and will fill critical needs for our voters and the City of Detroit,” Benson said.
Shoutout to the Lions for setting an example for other NFL teams to follow.