Like many a team across the country, the Los Angeles Rams held a virtual team meeting on Monday.
Twenty-five to 30 players shared experiences of “sadness, anger” from growing up as young Black men in a country that doesn’t make it easy to be a young Black man. Head coach Sean McVay said he wanted “to listen, to learn, and to empathize.” His full opening statement can be found here.
Though it may not necessarily have been his intent, McVay also shared a bit of news.
McVay said he will support their players if they decided to do an on-field demonstration this season.
McVay said he would support players if they want to demonstrate on the field. Asked if he would support signing Colin Kaepernick if the #Rams need a backup QB, the coach said the team would make a decision like that based on football factors. 2/5
— Kevin Modesti (@KevinModesti) June 2, 2020
Sean McVay says he would support his players if they decided to make an on-field public demonstration. Before McVay's time with the team, 5 Rams did just that in St. Louis in 2014 during the Ferguson protests. pic.twitter.com/F0a65xJ2Z5
— Greg Beacham (@gregbeacham) June 2, 2020
Certainly, plenty of teams at the NFL and collegiate level will carry the moment we’re living through today onto the field this fall. Coaches who pledged to do their part to combat systemic racism in America will be expected to follow through on their words, by the public and, far more importantly, by their players.
Texas head coach Tom Herman said he will support any efforts by players to use their platforms to push for social justice.
Herman said the issue of players' social media really wasn't addressed today. “You’re a minority football player at one of the biggest brands in the country. You have a voice. Use it. … Post away."
— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) June 1, 2020
Kneeling was — to put it lightly — a highly controversial move back in 2016-17.
Years later, the moment has changed.
But McVay’s announcement comes days after Joe Lockhart, who headed the NFL’s public-relations arm from 2016-18, wrote a column for CNN saying the league was wrong for how it treated Colin Kaepernick for his on-field demonstrations in 2016.
“I was wrong,” Lockhart wrote. “I think the teams were wrong for not signing him. Watching what’s going on in Minnesota, I understand how badly wrong we were.”
Vice President Mike Pence was roasted on Twitter for saying he will “always stand for the right of Americans to peacefully protest” two and a half years after walking out of a 2017 49ers-Colts game after a handful of 49ers knelt before the National Anthem.
Even if Rams players ultimately decide not to conduct an on-field demonstration this fall, others in the NFL and college football will. Teams should prepare themselves now to defend their players’ right to peacefully protest against a vocal segment of their fan base who would rather not be confronted with America’s problems before a football game.