Packers No Longer Sticking to Sports: Will Work on Voter Registration, Body Cams

Getty Images/Dylan Buell

Packers CEO Mark Murphy issued a lengthy statement on Saturday, saying that one of the “keys” in the fight for social justice was for “white people” in “positions of power,” to get more involved in making a “difference.”

The statement comes amid ongoing protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and nationwide, after the officer-involved shooting of Jacob Blake last week. Kenosha is just over 150 miles south of Green Bay.

Murphy wrote:

Racially motivated events over the last couple months have had an impact on our entire organization, particularly the horrific shooting of Jacob Blake. I met with our players and coaches on Thursday. A very emotional meeting, and players from various background and races spoke on the issues. And the one thing that came across to me is how united they were, and how upset they were with what’s happening in our society.

I wanted to take a minute to talk about the Packers’ stance in support of social justice efforts. We feel this is an issue that obviously impacts the Black community. But it’s not up to just the Black community to solve this issue. It’s on all of us.

I often hear from fans that we should just stick to sports. I have to respectfully disagree. Sports has a long history of speaking out for positive change. Jesse Owens. Jackie Robinson. And right here in Green Bay, no better example than Vince Lombardi. He was ahead of his time, signing and supporting Black players, when few in the league did. We wouldn’t have our 13 world championships if it wasn’t for Vince Lombardi. He also went to local businesses and said, ‘If you discriminate against my Black players, your business is off limits to the entire team.’

How can we celebrate the achievements of our Black players, past and present, without acknowledging, supporting, and advocating for their basic rights as American citizens? We owe it to our players, to our proud history, and to our community to use our voice as one of the iconic organizations in all of sports to stand up for that tradition.

One of the keys I think to resolving this is people in positions of power. Particularly white people. It’s on you to make a difference. The issues we’re facing, they’re not political issues. They’re societal issues. They’re issues affecting basic human rights. And I call on our sponsors, local business and community leaders, and our fans to get behind our players, to get behind the organization and  help make a difference on these important issues.

In terms of next steps with our players, this is something we’re going to continue to work on, we’ll have discussion going into the future. One of the things that’s very important to all of us is to get body cams to police officers. We’ve also had good discussions with Governor [Tony] Evers and Assembly and Majority Leader Jim Steineke. I think our players will be meeting, discussing with them in the future.

One of the key initiatives for the league and for us here in Green Bay is getting people registered to vote. It’s a basic right that obviously is very important. We’re also going to make the Johnsonville Tailgate Village, that will be a polling station for the election coming up in November.

We will be making a $250,000 social justice impact grant. That’s in addition to the $500,000 that the Packers already have provided in social justice grants this year.

I also call on NFL owners. They are in powerful, privileged positions, and can make a huge difference, and obviously have close relations with everybody in all their organizations. It’s time to make changes.

As an organization, we will continue to find ways to support the Black community, because Black lives matter. Fighting racism is not an issue the Packers will shy away from.

Murphy, in many ways, is responding to developments that began in the NBA, where teams boycotted games largely with the intent of getting their owners to act. This week, several NFL teams canceled or postponed practices in protest. There were also reports of several “prominent” NFL players talking about sitting out a regular season game.

Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn


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