There was sadness, and also anger and tears. “It was as real and authentic as it gets,” Rams coach Sean McVay said.
The Rams on Tuesday returned to their regularly scheduled virtual offseason program, but McVay said that an emotional and “powerful” team meeting the previous day continued to reverberate.
McVay said about 125 players, coaches and staff participated Monday in a videoconference that afforded all a platform for discussing the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the worldwide protests that have followed and the feelings and experiences that have shaped individual and collective reaction.
Floyd, an African American man, died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes while restraining him. The officer, Derek Chauvin, was arrested after days of protests and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Floyd family,” McVay told reporters during a videoconference. “This tragedy has affected our entire country and, really, our entire world. And with all the things going on, we thought it was really important as an organization to have a meeting … to really provide the platform, most importantly, to listen, to learn.”
Over the weekend, several Rams players utilized social media to express feelings about Floyd’s death, racism and the need for change. Quarterback Jared Goff, running back Malcolm Brown, defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day, safety John Johnson and receiver Cooper Kupp were among players who posted or retweeted others.
“My heart hurts for our country,” Goff said on Instagram. “There needs to be change and it can only happen together. I’ll never pretend to understand the struggles the black community goes through daily in our country and never will know this struggle. It is my responsibility to educate myself and actively participate in advocating for the change our country desperately needs, in words and action. Love each other a little more than usual, come together, and continue to push for positive change in our country.”
McVay said players and staff members shared their experiences during the meeting.
“One of the things that I wanted to make sure that I echoed and articulated to our players was, you know, while I can’t ever say that I’ve been the victim of racial profiling or discrimination, I have been raised to know what’s right and what’s wrong,” he said.
McVay said that asking questions with empathy and listening were major takeaways.
“It’s not just the surface-level, ‘How’s your family?’” he said. “But really just demonstrating the empathy and the willingness to try to learn, try to understand, and you don’t get that without asking. ... I’m a little disappointed that I haven’t been asking these questions long before this.”
In 2016, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sparked controversy when he knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial oppression in the United States.
No NFL team has signed Kaepernick since the end of the 2016 season.
McVay was asked if his perspective on Kaepernick’s situation had changed.
“It just reiterates having empathy and understanding, and allowing people to be able to handle the situations and what they see best fit,” McVay said.
McVay said he would support Rams players if they chose to demonstrate on the field during the upcoming season.
“It would be extremely silly of me, if I’m sitting here saying that I’m going to listen, to learn, and try to have an empathy and understanding, to not allow guys the platform if they feel like it’s the right way to represent the healing and some of those solutions that we’re looking to,” he said. “I absolutely would be open and wanting to listen and be open to that.”
John Wolford, who was on the practice squad last season, is Goff’s backup. The Rams also signed undrafted free agents Josh Love and Bryce Perkins.
Would McVay consider signing Kaepernick?
“He hasn’t played in a long time,” McVay said. “We feel really good about our quarterback situation.”
McVay said he would continue searching for ways to give players and staff the opportunity to voice their concerns and help change systems that cause societal problems.