Earlier this week, Rodney McLeod challenged NFL owners to support Black players speaking out about social injustices in the country.
On Sunday, Jeffrey Lurie answered the call.
The Eagles owner held a news conference, addressing systemic racism, the coronavirus pandemic, and several other topics. Speaking publicly for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and police violence against George Floyd and Jacob Blake, Lurie offered a sharp rebuke of the status of the country.
“We’re going through two terrible, terrible pandemics,” Lurie said. “One that’s existed for the history of our entire country, the pandemic of systemic racism. Violence to minorities, oppression, all that kind of activity that’s been part of our history. And, obviously, the once-in-the-last-100-years health pandemic that’s been devastating as well.”
McLeod addressed the Blake shooting on Thursday, a day before the team’s social justice committee held a meeting that included Lurie and other Eagles top executives.
In McLeod’s news conference, the safety said the league’s owners needed to join them in calling out injustices.
“We expect them to now stand up and speak out on these issues to protect us as Black men,” McLeod said. “These owners [should] come together and not only support us privately but step up and support us publicly as well as we’re dealing with a lot of these issues that exist right now.”
Lurie conceded the NFL owners should have done a better job listening to Colin Kaepernick when the quarterback began kneeling before games to protest police brutality and was eventually blackballed from the league. When asked if his peers were willing to help players trying to enforce change this time around, Lurie said he had confidence in the group.
“I’m very close to some of them,” Lurie said. “They suffer, and they’re embarrassed by our country and embarrassed and hurt. And [they] know we have to listen because we don’t even understand it as well as those that are particularly oppressed.”
Lurie added that he’s not the leading voice in the group of owners ready to help players speaking out.
“In most of the owners’ hearts and minds, they are really wanting to be proactive,” Lurie said. “It’s a sea change. It’s very important, though, that we support policies that are part of the solution, and in terms of elected officials, locally, statewide and maybe obviously important nationally. ... Elections really do matter, and this is a stark one. My hope is enough people will vote and will feel it’s representative of the population.”
In order to facilitate a more representative election, Lurie said the Eagles organization has offered to open Lincoln Financial Field as a polling place this November.
Lurie, a 68-year-old Jewish man, said in his opening statement that he has made a point to “exacerbate” the pain of seeing Black men being victimized by police brutality. He said he tried to envision someone he admires in the place of George Floyd to avoid becoming numb to the killing that occurred last May.
On the way to prevent police violence going forward, Lurie suggested an emphasis on teaching those in positions of consequence to care for themselves first.
“If you open your heart, you’re not going to put your knee on someone’s neck and let them expire,” Lurie said. “That’s from someone whose heart is closed. That’s from someone who hates themself. And we have to learn how to weed out those that are so disassociated from themselves, that they hate themselves. ... We have to emphasize the importance of loving yourself, respecting yourself.”
The aftermath of the Blake shooting sparked boycotts of professional sporting events, including the NBA and NHL playoffs. Several NFL teams canceled practice on Friday to call attention to social injustice.
Regarding the possibility of NFL teams boycotting games this season, Lurie said he was unconcerned while praising other sports league’s actions.
“I’m supportive of everything’s that involved in terms of trying to create attention and social change,” Lurie said. “If we have to sacrifice, we have to sacrifice. But I guess my most important opportunity to discuss that would be ’What can we do that’s really effective? ... It’s nice to see that leagues and teams now in partnership can come together and show the country that these are really important issues.”
Lurie also confronted the country’s handling of the coronavirus, calling attention to the daily death toll, which is hovering around 1,000 people per day, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“If I told you that yesterday, five Boeing 737s crashed in the United States [and] everybody died. Well, that’s every single day right now,” Lurie said. “We have to own this, we have to own the questions of leadership, we have to own the questions of policy and there’s a lot to be discussed here on that in the future.