Kliff Kingsbury: Cardinals support players' search for social justice

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TEMPE, Ariz. -- Inside the Arizona Cardinals' virtual team meetings last week, coach Kliff Kingsbury had a message for his players as the country came to a moment of reckoning with racism, police brutality and social injustices.

"From my point of view, I wanted to make a few points known," Kingsbury said Monday during a video conference call with reporters. "The first being, as an organization, we recognize what happened to George Floyd was a terrible tragedy. It was a murder. People accountable need to be held accountable. I think that they will. The racial injustice, the police brutality towards people of color, it has to stop, and we're all hopeful that this is a catalyst for that change.

"The second thing -- as an organization, we wanted them to know we support them from the top down."

Kingsbury's third point encouraged his players to use their platforms to inspire others, especially younger generations.

Kingsbury's words came in the wake of Floyd's death while in the custody of Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day, and the ensuing protests honoring Floyd and against police brutality, racism and social injustices. Kingsbury gave the Cardinals a day off Thursday, when Floyd's first memorial service was held.

"We wanted to give Thursday off for our players, to give them a week to be with their families and regroup -- just an off day, really, with everything going on, and in tribute to George Floyd as well," Kingsbury said.

The Cardinals spent last week having conversations on "lots of topics," Kingsbury said. They discussed what was happening around the country and the rest of the world, and then split into position groups where the conversations were more in-depth and personal.

Kingsbury also said he learned from listening to stories from his staff, of which eight of the 23 assistants are black.

"I wanted it to be more of an intimate setting for those guys," Kingsbury said. "A lot of guys talked with position coaches, shared some really moving experiences, and experiences that were tough for people to hear. But I think it was good for all of us on our team to have that type of setting.

"Staff-wise, just listening to their stories, how they feel about what's going on, and also what was shared in their position meetings. It's been a powerful time for everyone."

As a white male, Kingsbury said he has to be someone who listens more, learns more and understands more.

"There's so much that we can all do and being in a position of power," he said. "Working with these guys, I'm right at the top of that."

Kingsbury believes the conversations his team -- and others -- are having about race and social injustices will continue throughout the season, adding that he and his staff will encourage them to go on.

The Cardinals have not discussed what they will do during the national anthem next season, Kingsbury said.

"Obviously, we're gonna support our guys, they know that," he said. "But there's so much up in air right now, as far as what the fall's gonna look like on any level, that we haven't touched on that."

In response to Larry Fitzgerald's first-person letter to the New York Times, and Patrick Peterson's and DeAndre Hopkins' participation in a video from players demanding the NFL to condemn racism and support black players more, Kingsbury said he was "just very proud."

"I'm honored to work with guys like that," he said.

"Just to be able to work with guys like that, who care about others and want to push change, want to change the racial injustice, I think that's very powerful stuff."

Kingsbury made a point to explain to players how widespread their platform can be.

Having spent 11 years in college football before moving to the NFL in 2019, Kingsbury said he saw how influential NFL players can be on younger generations.

"I watched all those young men try to emulate NFL players, the way they dress and talk to the media and play and celebrate," Kingsbury said. "That's a powerful position that these players have, to touch young lives and try to inspire people to be better and young people to be better. I know when I walk in that room and see the players in our team meeting room, I'm inspired by them, I'm enlightened by them, their life experiences.

"So, I think it was a difficult week, but I think it was a productive week as well."