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Kliff Kingsbury: Cardinals had intimate discussions about race, inequality

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals watches from the sidelines during the second half of the NFL game against the Atlanta Falcons at State Farm Stadium on October 13, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Falcons 34-33. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury gave his players last Thursday off, a small gesture allowing them to pay tribute during the first day of memorial services for George Floyd, whose death while being arrested by Minneapolis police officers sparked protests across the nation over the past two weeks.

The team did not keep the tough conversations on racism and police brutality out of the virtual locker room.

Kingsbury bounced ideas off of defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, a black former NFL head coach, and allowed his players to have “intimate” discussions within the confines of their position groups.

“From my point of view, I wanted to make a few points to them, the first being, as an organization, we recognized what happened to George Floyd was a terrible tragedy,” Kingsbury said over Zoom on Monday, his first conference call with reporters since Floyd’s death. “It was a murder. The people accountable need to be held accountable. I think they will.

“The racial injustice and the police brutality towards people of color, it has to stop. We hope this is catalyst for that change.”

The Cardinals head coach said he was “very proud” off all the players who have addressed the killing of Floyd and other recent deaths of black Americans Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

Receiver Larry Fitzgerald, a Minneapolis native, wrote an essay for the New York Times that appeared in the newspaper over the weekend. Teammates Patrick Peterson, Kenyan Drake, Corey Peters, DeAndre Hopkins and Budda Baker are among those who have used their social media accounts to speak about the issues publicly — whether that’s by sharing personal stories about racism or penning their thoughts denouncing it.

While the Cardinals have not yet discussed how or if the team will use the National Anthem to protest racial inequalities when the season starts, Kingsbury said owner Michael Bidwill and the coaching staff have reiterated to the players that they will be supported. The conversations about changes needed in the country will be ongoing within their walls.

“I want all those guys to know how much I am honored and inspired to just be a part of their lives and work with them,” Kingsbury said when asked what his role is as a white man and NFL head coach. “I have to be a guy who listens more and learns more and understands more. There is so much we can all do and being in a position of power, working with these guys, I am right at the top of that.”


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