Green Bay Packers leaders meet after Jacob Blake shooting in Wisconsin

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers, who in June released a powerful video message after George Floyd was killed, held a meeting Monday between coach Matt LaFleur and the players' leadership council to discuss what actions they could take after a police shooting just 155 miles from Lambeau Field.

Jacob Blake, who is Black, was shot Sunday by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as he tried to enter the driver's side door of his vehicle. Officers were responding to a domestic disturbance. Blake's father, also named Jacob Blake, told the Chicago Sun-Times that he was told his son was shot eight times and is paralyzed from the waist down. Doctors do not know if the paralysis will be permanent.

LaFleur spoke to reporters via Zoom shortly after the Packers' meeting. He was emotional and spoke passionately about how the shooting already had affected his team.

"It's amazing to me that this is still happening, so [we] wanted to get our guys' perspective and try to float around some ideas on how we can make a difference and use our platform, because things have to change," LaFleur said. "The social injustice, the police brutality, the antiquated laws, [we] just got to bring awareness to everybody that Black lives matter. We can't stand for this any longer."

Video of the shooting, taken from a window across the street, was distributed on social media and shared by Blake's attorney, Ben Crump. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers already has called lawmakers into session to take action on a package of bills aimed at eliminating police brutality.

LaFleur said he first saw the video on Sunday evening.

"When you watch something like that, it's just so disgusting," he said. "It's disturbing. I watched it once, and I just don't even know what to think. I know I don't know all the facts around the case, but it's just a series. It keeps happening over, and over, and over again, and it blows my mind that we're sitting here in 2020, and we can't treat everybody the same. I don't know, I'm just kind of at a loss for words."

Aaron Rodgers, a member of the leadership council, said veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis helped drive the discussion on Monday.

"I think there's a lot of personal things that were said in those settings," Rodgers said. "I think, like I said in the video and like we talked about in the video that we put out, there's a systemic problem, and until the problem is fixed, this is going to be an all-too-common sighting in this country.

"It obviously hits home being not far from Green Bay. I'm not going to comment directly on the video until more facts come out, but obviously it's something where as a non-police officer, I think [for] a lot of us [the] natural question is, when is lethal force necessary? Again, I think that goes to a systematic problem that needs to be addressed at some point. There's antiquated laws that are prejudicial against people of color in this state. I think the governor and the folks at the Capitol need to take a hard look at some of those systems that are in place."

Among those believed to be in the leadership council meeting with Rodgers and Lewis were kicker Mason Crosby and linebacker Za'Darius Smith, along with several other veterans.

"I've always tried to listen first, and listening involves being silent," Rodgers said. "I think there's too many opinions. There's an entitlement that comes with a lot of opinions. There's a lot of opinions and statements made out of emotion. When you react first out of emotion, you lack the ability to listen. I think in listening, you find that empathy. And it's only through empathy and understanding that you can truly, I think, have a better awareness about kind of what the actual issues are, being a white male. That's what I've been trying to do for years.

"I grew up playing sports, playing basketball. I never saw color. It was just my friends, and there was no difference, but when you start listening and understanding, you realize the reality that you grew up in is much different than the reality that many of my teammates have grown up in. I think that's the first step toward educating yourself about what some of these issues are and the root of them. Again, I'll say it again: This is a systemic problem, and the root of 'systemic' is 'system.' Until the system's changed, there's not going to be a whole lot of change in this country. That's where we need to start, I think, with the legislature and protocol, training and again it's money as well."

The Packers later released a statement on the shooting, saying the "organization was shocked to see the video that showed police shooting Jacob Blake multiple times in the back. We are hopeful Jacob makes a full recovery, and our thoughts are with his family.

"While we understand a full investigation of this terrible incident will take place, we are deeply troubled at what again has become a painful example of the significant challenges we face with respect to police brutality, systemic racism and injustices against Black people. We continue to call for meaningful dialogue to affect the needed change we all desire."

Rodgers said the team has not yet held extensive conversations about a possible protest or statement on game days. In 2017, the Packers asked fans to join them in linking arms as a show of unity during the national anthem.

"We're still three weeks away from that," Rodgers said of the season opener. "But I'm sure there will be more extensive conversations when we get closer to the season. And then I'm sure we'll have a statement or some of the guys will be able to talk about what ideas we're thinking about."