BEREA, Ohio — As athletes across America decide how to move forward following the Jacob Blake shooting in Wisconsin, the Cleveland Browns conducted training camp in a different manner on Thursday.
The Browns were on the field for one hour of practice, then met together at the team's Fieldhouse to have a discussion about how to move forward to make a change in the community when it comes to social justice.
"We had a meeting, not only with the team but some of the leaders on this team, on whether we want to practice," defensive end Myles Garrett told reporters via Zoom. "We stand in solidarity with everyone who has chosen not to go today, but we elected to shorten our practice. We are going to cut it down about in half with what we are going to do and try to fit everything in that hour, and then we are going to go in the indoor and brainstorm on how we can make change happen in our community and how we can move forward locally and as a state and how us as teams in Cleveland, whether it is the Indians, Cavs or it is just the Browns, can move this thing forward, move the needle just a little bit and be a start of something great.”
Garrett told reporters that one of his ideas to make immediate change is to start a petition to criminalize hate speech.
"There are so many avoidable events that started with hate speech on social media, whether on Twitter, whether it was from the many shooters that have shot up schools or shot up churches who started just with open hate speech and they had no opposition towards their ideas and towards their opinions, or towards groups who openly march and parade their ideas up and down streets who are allowed to walk by police stations and local officials, who openly do nothing, whether they agree with their ideas or not. That should not be OK," he added.
The move by Browns players to shorten Thursday's practice, followed by a brainstorming meeting came with the full support of head coach Kevin Stefanski and his coaching staff.
"I am really proud of those guys. I am proud of the leaders on this football team. They have come up with the plan. We are going to practice today and we are going to get some good work in, but we are going to get it done quickly and efficiently so we can spend some more time this afternoon everybody sitting down and figuring out ways that we can be about action because ultimately, this organization is about this. We want to be pillars in this community. We want to stand for what is right and do everything we can to make sure that this town, this city of Cleveland knows that we have their back," Stefanski told reporters prior to practice.
On Wednesday, players from six NBA teams made the extraordinary decision to protest the shooting by police in Kenosha by boycotting the three scheduled playoff games in Orlando. Three Major League Baseball games were postponed on Wednesday due to players sitting out, while the WNBA and MLS also sat out their competitions on Wednesday.
The NBA has reportedly decided to resume playoff games in the league's 'bubble,' although it is unclear when play will resume. The NHL has also reportedly decided to postpone Thursday's postseason games.
Blake was shot in the back as he leaned into his SUV with his three children in the vehicle by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin during a confrontation Sunday night. Blake's father said he was left paralyzed from the waist down. He remains hospitalized.
On Tuesday, Ben Crump, the lawyer for Blake’s family, said it would “take a miracle” for Blake to walk again. He called for the officer who opened fire to be arrested and for the others involved to lose their jobs.
Meanwhile, Cleveland’s three major sports teams have launched an alliance “to develop a sustainable and direct strategy to address social injustice facing the city of Cleveland and all Northeast Ohio communities.”
“The alliance will also focus on improving the relationship between law enforcement and its citizens, encouraging nonpartisan voting activities and increasing the opportunities for quality education for everyone,” officials said in a press release.