The Washington Football Team's original plan was to spend Thursday holding a practice-scrimmage hybrid at FedEx Field. They ended up holding something else entirely different.
In response to the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, Ron Rivera and new president Jason Wright decided to cancel the on-field session at their home stadium and instead have a teamwide meeting about the ongoing racial issues and injustices happening in America.
Afterward, Rivera hosted a presser with the media to describe what that event was like.
"We had a conversation with our players," he said on Zoom. "We created an opportunity for them to have a forum and a discussion as to what's been going on in our world today. What it's like and how they're feeling. We wanted to listen to them and hear them and give them an opportunity to have a voice.
"I thought the meeting went very well. I thought the players were very candid, very open about their feelings and expressed them."
In a Wednesday night statement, Rivera explained that players, coaches and football staff would all be in attendance. Wright was there, too, as was owner Dan Snyder, according to the head coach. Rivera estimated that, in total, the dialogue lasted more than an hour and a half.
While Rivera declined to get into the specifics of what was touched on, he did admit that one of the more poignant moments was when a white player recalled being pulled over by police and worrying solely about where his license was. That is in great contrast to what many of his Black teammates have to think about in similar situations.
"There was some anger, disappointment, some concern for our future," Rivera said when asked what the overall vibe in the room was like. "Again, these are young men, these are young men that have children and there's a lot of things that impact them. Unfortunately, a lot of these young men have had this feeling for a long, long time."
Once it wrapped, Rivera gave his players the rest of the day off so they could reflect. Training camp is expected to resume on Friday, and the get-together at FedEx Field should be rescheduled at some point.
On Thursday, however, football didn't matter. What did matter was the desire to allow football stars to speak about beyond-football problems, and Rivera's mission to have those football stars use their influence to help minimize those beyond-football problems as well.
"They were challenged to come up with a cause, come up with something that we can do," he said. "We pledged our support to it. Again, we talked about finding one thing that we could truly use as our spearhead as we go forward. We can support a lot of different things, but something that's truly ours would be, I think, a neat way to handle it."
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