"The World Can't Go On!"
"We Won't Be Silent!!"
Those were the two messages Lions players wrote on a large whiteboard they rolled out as they gathered outside the front of the Allen Park practice facility Tuesday afternoon, instead of gathering behind it on the football field for practice.
"Today, when we came in the building there were a lot of heavy hearts," safety Duron Harmon said as he took the microphone in an opening address. "We're at a point in time where a lot of tragic events and things keep happening to black people and people of color and on Sunday evening Jacob Blake, an unarmed black man, was tragically shot in his back seven times in front of his girlfriend and in front of his three children.
"So as we came in today, as a team, we looked at each other and we realized football is not important. We have a platform that we're able to use to not only raise awareness, but to create change, and we decided today that we was going to step forward and we was going to create change."
Blake was shot seven times in the back by police officers Sunday night in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The 29-year old had surgery and is now paralyzed from the waist down, according to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times. The incident has sparked renewed protests against racism and police brutality.
Lions players had an off day on Monday, so Tuesday morning was the first time the team has gathered since the Blake shooting.
"Jacob Blake could have been anybody's brother, cousin, uncle, friend, could have been them," Harmon said. "And it wasn't OK and we're not here for it. The Detroit Lions organization is going to make a stand that what happened to Jacob Blake is not OK and we're going to speak out on it."
The Lions were scheduled to practice Tuesday beginning at 10:30 a.m. It was pushed back to 1:15 p.m., and then cancelled altogether as players, accompanied by head coach Matt Patricia, gathered outside in front of reporters in a show of solidarity.
Harmon said it's up to players to create change and be role models within the community, and to give those who don't have hope, hope once more.
Defensive end Trey Flowers, who is among the Lions' leaders in social justice initiatives, also spoke out.
"I want to point out how unified we are out here," Flowers said. "How we came together and in this building and inside these walls and between those lines we're just as unified. We're together, which could be a representation of the world out here, we can be unified, we can be together and together we came up with this phrase today: 'The World Can't Go On.'
"This locker room, this building, is full of fathers, sons, big brothers, little brothers, cousins, uncles, and when we see the events that happened throughout this world, and most recently on Sunday, we see our sons, we see our brothers, we see our fathers, we see our cousins, our nephews. We can't become numb to it. The world just can't go on."
Left tackle Taylor Decker also spoke and got a bit emotional after listening to some of the conversations and stories teammates told in their meeting Tuesday morning.
"Hearing all the pain, perspective and fear from teammates, and what they have to go through. One of my teammates said that every day his mom texts him to make sure he made it home from work," Decker said. "Every single day. He says, 'Mom, you know I'm at the building all day and I drive home.' And she said, 'yeah, but you got that 23-minute drive, I just want to make sure you're OK.'
Decker said that hit home for him because just the other day he drove home with a headlight out, and didn't think anything of it. He was never concerned for his safety if pulled over. Decker's message was that the pain and fear he heard from teammates was not OK.
Patricia said he was proud of his players for speaking up and leading. The message Tuesday was clear: It's bigger than football.