The Green Bay Packers postponed and ultimately canceled practice today, following the lead of several other NFL teams in the wake of an unprecedented night of protest in professional sports. Thursday afternoon, head coach Matt LaFleur spoke passionately and forcefully about the Packers decision to do so, saying they’ll devote time to discussing issues surrounding social justice in more depth.
“We’ve been talking bout this for a while now as a team,” LaFleur said. “I think there’s some things we can do in the short term to bring light to some of these issues.”
The decision to cancel practice wasn’t a knee jerk reaction. LaFleur said it came about gradually. He’d spoken with a few players and coaches following the Milwaukee Bucks’ decision to sit out their playoff game Wednesday night, and those conversations continued into Thursday morning. Ultimately, the Packers decided that unit and team meetings were more important.
“Instead of having our normally scheduled offensive and defensive meetings, we met as units on each side of the ball, then we came together as a team and talked about things we could potentially do moving forward to help make a significant change.”
LaFleur didn’t specifically name any goals the team has, but he repeatedly emphasized the importance of listening, something that’s been his primary approach as protests and demonstrations have multiplied across the country.
“Right now, we’ve got a lot of guys in our locker room that are upset at what they see in the world and what they’ve experienced,” he said. “I don’t know what our guys go through. I’m a white guy. I’ve not been put through certain situations. But I’m going to continue to listen and continue to do whatever I can to support equal rights.”
LaFleur was also quick to point out that the Packers do both intend and want to focus on football as much as possible. The team will reconvene tomorrow and make plans for getting back to a regular practice schedule.
But should the Packers just stick to sports? LaFleur doesn’t think so.
“At the end of the day, we’re all human and people have emotions,” he said. “I don’t think anybody, myself included, wants to be defined by what our job is. I just think that’s the mentality right now.”