FLORHAM PARK. N.J. — The Jets returned to practice Saturday after spending much of the past two days having intense and emotional conversations about racial and social issues and trying to find ways to enact change.
The players are still in the process of deciding what they will do as a team and an organization after those meetings that were prompted by Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, being shot in the back by police officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The Jets shared personal experiences, talked about policy and legislature, the importance of voting, registering to vote and getting to know the candidates.
The conversations between the players in the Jets locker room are ongoing. But one of the leaders of the team said as of now sitting out or boycotting games doesn’t seem to be one of the avenues that they will take to try and help change the social climate.
“We have to continue playing,” quarterback Sam Darnold said. “Quite frankly, the reason we have a platform is because we play football and we’re in the NFL. That was a huge point to all the guys. We have to continue playing. We have to continue to push our message across and get our points across to everyone because if we stop playing that platform can be taken away from us.”
The NBA, NHL and MLB all postponed games this week. The NFL season begins Sept. 10, and the Jets open three days later.
They plan to continue to use this time to keep talking and finalizing what they want to do to help eradicate the ongoing social issues that are plaguing this country.
The Jets released a video on Saturday night of players, coaches, management and ownership saying they want to ”effectuate change.” It ended with the entire team and staff members imploring, “enough is enough.”
“Clearly, we’re sick of what’s going on with society nowadays and all we want is positive change,” Jets offensive lineman Jonotthan Harrison said. “We’re sick of all this negativity going on and we have a powerful enough platform where we can help push for that positive change. So why not do it?”
One message Harrison tried to get across Saturday was that the Jets did not “boycott” anything on Thursday when they decided not to practice. Harrison, an African-American who was one of the voices in that meeting, said the players needed to talk and try to figure out how they can help make the world safer for everyone.
“Very, very hopeful and very confident that something will come of this, some change will be made,” Harrison said.
Harrison also appreciated the support that Jets CEO Christopher Johnson, general manager Joe Douglas and coach Adam Gase have shown during this. The players did most of the talking among themselves, but when they wanted Johnson, Douglas and Gase involved they were and offered any assistance the players needed.
“What to do and how to go about it are what we need to handle," Harrison said. "We’re not going into each step and detail right now. We’re gathering what we’d like to get done and how we’re going to go about it. The organization is pulling people left and right and willing to provide whatever information and whatever resources necessary to do so.”
Harrison said the players identified the meeting as “a safe space” to express their inner feelings. He believes it brought the team closer together, and he said he saw players’ “hearts” and “caring side” more than he ever has.
“You see football passion,” Harrison said, “but this is like a whole different kind of passion.”
Some of the topics were difficult, and “opened” the “eyes and ears” of players who hadn’t experience the same things. Darnold was one of them.
Darnold is a white man from a predominantly white neighborhood in Orange County in California. He went to USC and has been in South Central Los Angeles, but he never dealt with things some of his teammates and coaches have.
The things that were said in the meeting were “very moving” and “eye-opening” for Darnold.
“I took the time to understand it is different growing up Black in America,” Darnold said. “Now I understand that better.”
“It was a great opportunity these last couple of days to sit back and listen and educate myself and understand where my teammates are coming from on these issues,” Darnold added. “I’m right there with them. I feel their pain. I’m going to do everything I can. We as the Jets organization we’re going to do everything we can to help out.”