Cardinals cancel team activities after meeting over social justice response

Aug 27, 2020, 8:40 AM | Updated: 11:52 am
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald #11 (C) of the Arizona Cardinals stands with teammates during a NFL ...
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald #11 (C) of the Arizona Cardinals stands with teammates during a NFL team training camp at University of State Farm Stadium on August 20, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Arizona Cardinals canceled all team activities Thursday after they called a team meeting to discuss how to move forward following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury said the team held a “somber” meeting before sending players home to use their time to reflect and pursue social justice changes.

The cancellation came after the Sunday police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisc. A shooting of protesters that left two dead days later only exacerbated the conversations and unrest about racism in the United States, leading to major sports leagues boycotting games Wednesday night.

Owner Michael Bidwill, general manager Steve Keim, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and Kingsbury decided to cancel team activities Thursday before meeting with players, the head coach said.

“I think as an organization we discussed with Michael and Steve and (Vance Joseph) and a lot of people what the right thing to do was for us and this was the decision we came to,” Kingsbury said. “What happened to Jacob Blake was horrendous and it has to stop. I know it sounds hollow at times because you hear the same things over and over, but we wanted to make sure our players know we support them …

“There’s times where football takes a backburner. We felt like this is one of those moments as an organization.”

Joseph, who is Black, addressed the team before allowing players to head home.

As planned, Arizona will hold its Red & White scrimmage Friday starting at 9:30 a.m., Kingsbury added.

Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake wrote on Twitter that the team was given “the day off today to educate and reflect on who we are as individuals and where we need to progress as people.”

With Arizona’s Red & White scrimmage scheduled to take place Friday, the team had already expected to have limited on-field activities Thursday. The Cardinals earlier in the week had closed State Farm Stadium to reporters.

The Cardinals also canceled a day of work earlier in the offseason in the wake of the George Floyd police shooting.

Talks between the Cardinals about how to move forward came after NBA, MLB, WNBA and MLS teams boycotted games Wednesday night. Thursday morning, other NFL teams with earlier practices cancelled them.

The New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts, Washington Football Team and Green Bay Packers all canceled practices in an apparent response to the shooting of Blake in Kenosha, Wisc.

Blake, 29, was shot by police officers, apparently in the back, on Sunday as he leaned into his SUV, three of his children seated inside. The shooting was captured on cellphone video and ignited new protests in the U.S. three months after the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer touched off a nationwide reckoning over racial injustice.

The Detroit Lions canceled their practice Tuesday, protesting the incident involving Blake and racial injustice.

The Colts posted a statement on Twitter, saying they would not hold their scheduled practice session.

“Instead, the team will use the day to discuss and work toward making a lasting social impact and inspiring change in our communities,” the statement said.

On Wednesday night, the Washington Football Team announced it would not hold its practice at its home stadium on Thursday afternoon. It was supposed to be broadcast live on local radio and televised at night.

“In place of our practice at FedEx Field, the players, coaches and football staff will meet as a football family and we’ll continue our open dialogue on the issues of racism and social injustice in out country,” coach Ron Rivera said in the statement.

Washington, which recently dropped its longtime name of Redskins, last week hired Jason Wright as the first Black team president in NFL history.

The Packers also announced Thursday they would not hold their scheduled practice.

The Atlanta Falcons were among teams still practicing. Coach Dan Quinn said he would talk with players later Thursday, including the team’s social justice committee.

Blake’s shooting was followed by protests in Wisconsin, one of which turned deadly.

A white, 17-year-old police admirer was arrested Wednesday after two people were shot to death during a third straight night of protests in Kenosha over the police shooting of Blake.

Kyle Rittenhouse, of Antioch, Ill., about 15 miles from Kenosha, was taken into custody in Illinois on suspicion of first-degree intentional homicide in the attack Tuesday that was largely captured on cellphone video. The shooting left a third person wounded.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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