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Bears cancel practice, vow ‘action’ after Jacob Blake shooting

The Bears joined in the sports world’s protest of Jacob Blake’s shooting, saying they would not practice as planned.

Bears players stretch before Sunday’s practice.
The Bears warm up before practice Sunday.
Nam Y. Huh/AP

The Bears hit pause for a cause Thursday.

In doing so, they added another voice to the sports world’s caco-phony of protest over the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who had his back turned when he was shot by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Sunday night.

Rather than participate in one of their precious few training camp practices during a truncated preseason, the Bears elected en masse not to take either of their two backfields for their 9:20 a.m. session Thursday. A few players and coaches milled around briefly before returning indoors, signaling that a show of solidarity would have taken place during practice, had it begun. Around 9:20, reporters were told to leave the campus because the Bears had changed their schedule.

The Bears held a team meeting, but for the next 5½ hours, the organization remained publicly silent. Just past 3 p.m., the team issued a statement attributed to the players.

“In the wake of what has taken place in our backyard of Kenosha over the last couple of days, we as a team have a lot on our mind today,” the statement said. “We decided to pause our football activities to voice to each other, our coaches and our staff where we stand on the real issues around race and police brutality in our country.

“We had a productive discussion, but we all agreed that talks and discussions are simply not enough anymore and we need action. We are putting in plans to take action in our communities, and together we believe we can make a real difference. We need action not only today but in the days to come.”

The Bears did not make coach Matt Nagy or players available for interviews, though media availability had been scheduled weeks ago.

The statement was an attempt to represent the views of 80 members of the Bears’ active roster. Some of their biggest stars later took to social media with the same message: togetherness.

“Together we are inseparable,” running back Tarik Cohen wrote.

“Alone we are nothing,” running back David Montgomery wrote. “Together we are everything!!!!!”

“I love the unity we have as a team, staff and organization,” safety Eddie Jackson posted.

Nearly three months ago, players had shared similar sentiments during a teleconference call after the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by Minneapolis police May 25. Forty players and coaches spoke during a 139-person virtual gathering, which Nagy called the most powerful two-hour meeting of his life.

Players vowed then to try to effect social change, not just talk about it on social media. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky, tackle Charles Leno, safety Sherrick McManis and linebacker Isaiah Irving joined former Bears linebacker Sam Acho in purchasing a South Austin liquor store and turning it into a pop-up grocery store, which opened last week.

The Blake shooting brought back the same raw emotion as the Floyd killing. Linebacker Danny Trevathan tweeted his frustration Wednesday night.

“It’s like every other day, man,” he wrote. “I’m so sick of the senseless killings of [unarmed] Black Americans. To this day, all we want is to be treated equal. #JusticeForJacobBlake.”

The Bears weren’t alone in their protest. After NBA teams called off their playoff games in Orlando, Florida, on Wednesday night, at least eight other NFL teams — the Broncos, Chargers, Colts, Jets, Packers, Cardinals, Titans and the Washington Football Team — canceled practice Thursday.

In a joint statement, the NFL and its players union said they share “anger and frustration” about the Blake shooting and vowed to be “united more than ever to support one another.”

“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,” the statement read. “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 Lions were the first NFL team to walk out of practice in solidarity Tuesday. They spoke to reporters onsite about their team meeting, displaying a sign that read, “We Won’t Be Silent.”

The Bears didn’t hold such a public display. In a statement Tuesday, the team said it was “deeply disturbed by yet another instance of a police officer using excessive force against a Black person.”

It’s unclear when the Bears will have the opportunity to delve into the specifics of their new plan and the emotions behind it. They aren’t scheduled to talk to the media again until Saturday afternoon, after a Soldier Field scrimmage that’s shaping up to be the most important practice of the preseason.