The Ravens on Thursday called on the country to come together and address racism in law enforcement directly, saying it was time to “accept accountability and acknowledge the ramifications of slavery and racial injustice” in the wake of the recent police shooting of Jacob Blake.
In its statement, the team said it is “imperative that all people” come together in society to “enact positive change.” Among the Ravens’ stated goals are arresting the officers who killed Breonna Taylor, a Black woman in Louisville, Kentucky, and shot Blake, a Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin. They also demanded that U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell bring the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 to the Senate floor for a vote.
It’s one of the most comprehensive reform proposals advanced by an American sports team.
“This is bigger than sports,” the Ravens said. “Racism is embedded in the fabric of our nation’s foundation and is a blemish on our country’s history. If we are to change course and make our world a better place, we must face this problem head-on and act now to enact positive change.”
The team practiced Thursday morning but canceled afternoon team meetings and a media availability to discuss its next step. Nine NFL teams decided not to practice or scrimmage Thursday, joining a wave of teams taking action across American sports that started the night before in the NBA.
The Milwaukee Bucks were the first to boycott their playoff game Wednesday night, protesting the weekend shooting of Blake. Blake’s family’s attorney said he was paralyzed and that it would “take a miracle” for him to walk again. The shooting of the 29-year-old Blake was captured on cellphone video Sunday and ignited protests in Kenosha, where two protesters were shot dead, and elsewhere.
The Ravens, who returned to Owings Mills on Thursday for training camp after having the day off Wednesday, embraced the Black Lives Matter movement in June, with owner Steve Bisciotti saying in a video that he would be “the worst kind of hypocrite” if he didn’t speak out against racial injustice.
Over the offseason, Ravens players shared their frustration in the wake of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in May after a white police officer knelt on his neck as he was being arrested in Minneapolis. The Ravens and Bisciotti’s foundation have also donated $1 million to support social justice reform in Baltimore.
The team’s list of actionable items Thursday targeted similar goals. None of the three officers involved in the March shooting of Taylor, whose death became a rallying cry in the Black Lives Matter movement, have been charged. In Kenosha, two officers involved in Blake’s shooting have been placed on administrative leave, while the others will be identified soon, according to the state’s attorney general.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would end “qualified immunity” — a legal doctrine that protects police officers accused of excessive force — among other reforms, passed the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives in June. But Senate Republicans have refused to take up the House version, saying it would undermine law enforcement.
Acknowledging that “we cannot right all the wrongs of our country’s history,” the Ravens called for sweeping reforms elsewhere, including requiring body cameras; banning chokeholds and no-knock warrants; holding police accountable in court; and establishing a framework to prohibit racial profiling at all levels of government.
The Ravens also indicated their support for state- and federally mandated Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Accreditation, encouraged voter registration and political participation, demanded fair and equitable prison-sentencing reform, and asked that citizens respect and comply with police while reporting abuses of power to local internal-affairs units.
“We will use our platform to drive change now — not just for our generation, but for the generations that follow, for our sons and daughters and for their children,” the Ravens said.
The NFL and the NFL Players Association issued a issued a joint statement supporting the players’ handling of the situation.
“The NFL community is united more than ever to support one another in these challenging times. We share anger and frustration, most recently as a result of the shooting of Jacob Blake,” they said in a release Thursday, hours before the Ravens shared theirs.
“While our passions continue to run high, we are proud that our players and clubs, League and Union, are taking time to have the difficult conversations about these issues that affect the Black community and other communities of color in America. We are especially encouraged that these conversations are about how we can come together to make the necessary and long overdue changes in our country.
“We will continue to not only use our collective platform to call out racism and injustice whenever and wherever it occurs in our country, but also fight together to eradicate it.”
The Ravens have not indicated other protest plans for this preseason or regular season, which kicks off in Baltimore on Sept. 13. Asked after his team’s scrimmage Wednesday whether NFL players could sit out of games in protest, Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said: “Anything’s possible. This is a protest season.”
Wednesday marked the four-year anniversary of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sitting during the national anthem before a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. Kaepernick, who said at the time that he didn’t want “to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” later knelt during the anthem to protest police brutality in America, sparking a movement throughout the league and professional sports.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.