TAMPA, Fla. -- While a number of NFL teams chose not to practice Thursday in light of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers carried on, with coach Bruce Arians challenging his team to take action.
Arians held a brief team meeting before practice and told players he fully supports moving or canceling practice if players can devise a plan to bring about change.
"Your responsibility is to take action," Arians said. "I don't know that protest is an action. I think each guy has a personal thing. I would beg them to take action, find a cause and either support it financially or do something to change the situation."
Arians remembers race riots in York, Pennsylvania, in 1968 and 1969, when dozens of people were injured and two people were killed. Arians was 16 at the time and recalled seeing the National Guard going up and down his street.
"Protesting doesn't do crap, in my opinion," Arians said. "I've been seeing it since 1968."
Arians said the team's social justice committee would be meeting Thursday to brainstorm ideas about what action to take.
Blake, a Black man, was shot seven times by police Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He was shot as he attempted to enter the driver's side door of his vehicle with three of his children inside. Video of the shooting was distributed on social media, sparking more protests and causing more athletes to speak out or take action.
Running back LeSean McCoy said they wanted to come up with a thoughtful, meaningful response as a team.
"How can we find a solution or an answer to make our statement?" McCoy said. "Because I'm just not sure that not practicing ... what does that do? We want to have a real stand. We want to paint a picture that everyone can understand and comprehend. That's the tough part. But I think eventually as older guys on the team come together -- we've been talking about it -- it'll pick up more and hopefully we'll have a great solution.
"We're hurt. We're hurt that we're seeing and that we constantly keep seeing this, and we want an answer. As a group, that's something we have to talk about. What's the best way to get our message across and be productive? We don't want to just say these things and say this, say that. We want to actually go out there and be productive, as a unit and as a group -- all colors, all teammates -- to try to make a difference. The tough part is that there is no real answer for those questions yet. Hopefully together we can send a message out, whatever that may be."
McCoy said he understands why players in other leagues -- the NBA, WNBA and MLB -- have opted not to play and why they're speaking up.
"There [are] so many great things about this country, but there are certain things that we can't take, and over and over and over again. So I think a lot of ballplayers are just stating how they feel by using their voice, by using this platform.
"When we have these conversations, guys are emotional. We are who we are, right? We could be some of those people that don't really have a voice or are losing their lives. It's really tough. So that's the kind of conversation that, to be honest, is real touchy. And you keep seeing it. It's one thing if you hear about it, but it's actually on tape. And you can rewind it and rewind it and rewind it and see it. So it is tough. It's tough to be a Black kid and see that."
The Bucs have been proactive in helping relations between the police and the community. Players have attended Citizen Academy training sessions with Tampa police, where they take part in simulation exercises and have discussions about police brutality and officer-involved shootings. The team's social justice committee also met with police and local leaders this summer after George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, was killed by police in Minneapolis.
"I just don't get it. I really don't," McCoy said. "The first time that happened, it's wrong, right? But they keep over and over and overdoing it. It's like, 'What didn't you learn from the last case?' Killing a man is wrong. But after the fact ... You keep watching it. You keep seeing it. You see what's going on and people talk about it. People are addressing it and making people more aware, and you still are killing innocent people ... unarmed. Stuff like that is just hard to understand."
McCoy said he's had a number of conversations with friends who are police officers.
"I always ask them, 'Man, in this situation or scenario, what would you have [done]?' or 'What should have happened?'" McCoy said. "If a guy doesn't have a weapon or you don't see he has a weapon, drawing your weapon should never be the answer. I look at that situation that recently just happened, and I think that they could've just tackled the guy if you thought he was going to his car to get a weapon or whatever you thought. But not shoot him seven times. That's uncalled for. Because that could've been your child.
"You gotta think about that as a cop. That could've been my son. That could've been his son. And you don't want nobody treating your child that way. That's just the hard part when you look at it, because you can get angry, watching it over and over again. I struggle with that."