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Several NFL teams canceled practice Thursday to focus on social justice issues and protest the shooting of Jacob Blake, following decisions by the Milwaukee Bucks and other pro sports teams to not play the previous day.
The Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets, Green Bay Packers and Washington Football Team were among the teams to cancel practice, announcing their decisions either Wednesday night or Thursday morning. Indianapolis and Washington both announced that they would instead spend the day discussing social justice issues and working toward change.
“Friday we can return to football. But (Thursday) will be about reflection instead,” Washington Football team coach Ron Rivera said in a statement Wednesday night. “In place of our practice at FedExField, the players, coaches and football staff will meet as a football family and we will continue our open dialogue on the issues of racism and social injustice in our country.”
The Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers and Tennessee Titans also decided Thursday not to practice.
In New Orleans, Saints players opted to practice, but each one wore Blake’s name in tape across their helmet.
“The thing I mentioned last night to the team is I think we’ve got a really good, close locker room, and if they came up with something they wanted to do, I would support it,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “There still might be something they wish to do. The idea of putting his name on everyone’s helmet is something we thought would be appropriate, and I think they were for it.”
The cancellations come two days after a similar move by the Detroit Lions, the first NFL team to scrap practice to focus on social justice issues this week.
By declining to take the practice field, the NFL teams joined a movement that has swept through professional basketball, baseball and soccer, largely sparked by the Bucks’ refusal Wednesday to participate in a playoff basketball game.
The Bucks, and athletes in other leagues, are declining to play to shed light on the situation in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and call for action in the case of Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who was shot in the back seven times by a police officer on Sunday.
The Bucks’ protest came four years to the day after former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality.