When Bears players spoke out Wednesday about George Floyd’s killing, police violence and what they see as systemic racism, they vowed to do more than talk.
The next day, quarterback Mitch Trubisky and receiver Allen Robinson joined former Bears linebacker Sam Acho in the Austin neighborhood.
Acho played the role of Noah on Thursday, bringing two athletes from most Chicago teams with him: the Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews and Malcolm Subban; the Cubs’ Jason Heyward and Jason Kipnis; the Bulls’ Ryan Arcidiacono and Max Strus; and Northwestern football alums-turned-pros Austin Carr and Tyler Lancaster.
Teaming with neighborhood groups By The Hand, BUILD and Westside Health Authority, the players spent an hour listening to area teenagers and police officers and then took a bus tour of the neighborhood.
When the players counted 10 liquor stores and only one grocery store, they agreed to take action. Acho said they will try to purchase a liquor store and turn it into a food mart. Kids from the neighborhood groups could help run it, learn life skills and bring healthful food to the area.
“They need our resources,” said Acho, who’s a free agent. “And they need our money to help invest in their community. They need our platform, our voices to help spread the word … and they need our time.”
Bears players know they have all four things.
“When you see any kind of stereotypical being done or any kind of discrimination happening, I think that everybody, if they continue to speak up and not be silent or not turn a blind eye to it, that we’ll continue to make this world a better place,” Robinson said last week. “I think that’s the biggest thing. And that’s [so] people who are -actually living in it, like myself, like my family, like my teammates, for guys to continue to get in the community and to continue to impact the community.”
Bears players have been quick to say that words won’t be enough.
One player used his words on social media to start a movement.
On Friday night, guard James Daniels, an Iowa alum, tweeted that “there are too many racial disparities in the Iowa football program. Black players have been treated unfairly for far too long.” His former teammates replied with their own stories about improper behavior by strength coach Chris Doyle.
Saturday afternoon, coach Kirk Ferentz placed Doyle on administrative leave and acknowledged calls for a cultural shift in the program.
Spent the day yesterday healing. Listening to kids all around the city of Chicago and learning how we can do better. How I can do better. Grateful for @Mtrubisky10 @AllenRobinson @JonathanToews @TheJK_Kid @ayeseeme #jasonheyward #Malcolmsubban & more for being real about change pic.twitter.com/oeOPI51mmi— Sam Acho (@TheSamAcho) June 5, 2020
The Bears have spent time in their meetings trying to find ways to channel their energy into change. Inside linebacker Danny Trevathan has November circled.
“We have to be heard — I feel now that has happened,” Trevathan said. “Now, what’s the next step? The next step is affecting change, creating change. That’s where we have to be on board. Like we have to get out as a team going forward. At the same time, do whatever, bring as many people — rent a bus, rent a dag-gone big old subway if you have to — bring as many people as you can to vote and to put something forward, not just talk about this stuff.”
When the players were on the bus in Austin, a teenager reminded them that they got to return home after the field trip. The players vowed to return.
“I think about where we’re at as a country, and I think about how a lot of black people are hurting right now because George Floyd looks like them,” Acho said. “He could be their brother, could be their father, could be their son.
“The question isn’t what would you do if George Floyd was you? The question is if George Floyd was your brother, your father, your son, what wouldn’t you do to see justice happen? What rock wouldn’t you look under? What heights wouldn’t you go to to do whatever it takes?
“Let’s seize this moment and not forget about it.”