The early moments of the New Orleans Saints’ practice Thursday felt somber, as an unsettling quiet swept over the Ochsner Sports Performance Center during the team’s walkthrough period.
Then the bullhorn sounded and music began to blare, but it wasn’t a normal practice. Not after what happened the day before.
If you already understand why Black Lives Matter, and why NFL players take a knee during the national anthem, you can stop reading now.
Two sentences from the first song that played over the speakers served as a poignant reminder of the latest catalyst fueling racial unrest:
There’s so much hate in America. I don’t really feel safe in America.
The rapper behind those words is Saints tackle Terron Armstead. As he heard his latest single again, Armstead was standing on the field at the Saints’ indoor facility, wearing someone else’s name on his helmet.
It wasn’t just Armstead. Every Saints helmet had a sticker with Jacob Blake’s name.
Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot in the back seven times by police Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, after being tasered while his three children sat in the backseat of his car. Blake is now paralyzed. He remains in the hospital as of Thursday night, and is handcuffed to his hospital bed, his family told reporters.
Officers were trying to arrest Blake in regard to an alleged domestic violence dispute. A knife was reportedly found in Blake’s car, but local authorities didn’t elaborate as to how, if at all, the knife was involved in the incident.
“Every time I see that situation, I say, ‘That could have been me,’ ” Saints wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. “That could have been one of my cousins. That could have been one of my uncles. And the reason I say that could’ve easily been me is because I’m an African-American in America, and it’s sad to say. It seems just like not all cops, but a majority of these cops, when they see an African-American, they have no value of life.
“They don’t value our life as much as they value a Caucasian or anybody else. That’s just what I believe. And what I’ve seen in terms of these videos and stuff, and how they’re just brutally murdering and taking their pain or whatever it is out on … it just goes to show that my theory is semi-correct.”
The Saints were far from the only sports organization taking a stand after Blake’s shooting.
The Detroit Lions canceled practice Tuesday in protest. Then, on Wednesday, several sports organizations and leagues came to a complete halt.
While three NFL teams didn’t practice on Thursday in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin on Sunday, the New Orleans Sa…
The Milwaukee Bucks went on strike, refusing to take the court for their first-round NBA playoff game against the Orlando Magic. Milwaukee is 40 miles north of Kenosha.
From there came a domino effect. The Rockets-Thunder game and Lakers-Trail Blazers games were postponed indefinitely. On Thursday, the NBA’s players had voted to resume the playoffs but the day’s previously scheduled games have also been postponed.
The NBA season will continue after it was abruptly put on hold following a Milwaukee Bucks-led players strike.
Thank God for the Milwaukee Bucks and the NBA.
WNBA players declined to play their Wednesday and Thursday games, and a few MLB games were postponed, including A’s-Rangers and Phillies-Nationals.
On Thursday, nine NFL teams canceled practices or scrimmages.
Saints coach Sean Payton said there was no talk of canceling Thursday’s practice, but they did talk about Blake and how the team wanted to proceed.
“It was something we felt would be appropriate,” Payton said.
Sanders said the idea for the team to wear Blake’s name on their helmets came from Payton, adding that he was open to discussion for any more ideas.
Linebacker Craig Robertson said the team isn’t stopping with that.
“That’s not our main thing that we’re doing. We’re trying to do some other stuff to honor him and honor everything that’s going on,” Robertson said, later adding, “Just let everybody know that we’re not gonna stand for that.”
Sanders offered of the helmet stickers: “It’s a good start. I feel like we’ve got to do more as well.”
The Saints haven’t yet laid out those next steps. Robertson said the team is still deciding on what to do and that the team will do together.
And Payton says he’s on board with that.
“Collectively as a team, a lot of things can be done to encourage change and be a part of change,” Payton said. “So that’s part of the teaching element of what we do as coaches. It never changes regardless of the level, whether it’s Pop Warner, high school, college or the NFL. It’s more than just football.”
The New Orleans Saints held their Thursday practice indoors at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center as rain bands from Hurricane Laura poured…