Matt Patricia hopes Lions demonstration keeps conversation going about social inequities

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Allen Park — The Lions made an impression this week by canceling practice Tuesday and showing support for reform and discussion of the social inequities in recent weeks and months around the country.

It was another example of athletes using their platform to bring more attention to the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and the other killings of Black citizens.

Several sports leagues continued the momentum Wednesday, with the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks staying in their locker room before Game 5 of their NBA playoff series.  That led to the league postponing all three of its playoff games both on Wednesday and Thursday, putting pressure on team owners.

Lions safety Duron Harmon addresses the media with his teammates outside the Lions NFL football camp practice facility Tuesday in Allen Park.

Other leagues, including Major League Baseball, the WNBA and Major League Soccer also had games postponed Wednesday. It’s unclear what the long-term ripple effect will be.

In the Lions’ case, it was a missed practice, but would they go the next step of canceling a game to amplify their point? Coach Matt Patricia didn’t commit to missing games, but he said that they’ll continue to monitor the progress in an ever-changing social justice landscape.

“Part of what we do right now is really day by day. I think everything is moving at a fast pace and things are happening. For us, we try to stay as normal as possible in abnormal times. We certainly know that everything isn't normal,” Patricia said Thursday morning. “So, day by day, we need to kind of make sure we're all in a good place and we're all just okay, ready to do whatever it is the team feels we need to do that day. So, there is a little bit of a maybe a daily check, I guess that's the best way to put it.”

The Lions made a bold statement, but the bigger question is where the conversations go next — and more importantly, how to turn the talk into sustainable actions that can improve the conditions and bring more reform.

The NFL and its players association issued a joint statement Thursday afternoon:

“The NFL community is united more than ever to support one another in these challenging times. We share anger and frustration, most recently as a result of the shooting of Jacob Blake,” the statement read. “While our passions continue to run high, we are proud that our players and clubs, League and Union, are taking time to have the difficult conversations about these issues that affect the Black community and other communities of color in America. We are especially encouraged that these conversations are about how we can come together to make the necessary and long overdue changes in our country.”

The Lions made a bold statement, but the bigger question is where the conversations go next — and more importantly, how to turn the talk into sustainable actions that can improve the conditions and bring more reform.

Although the Lions’ demonstration became national news, Patricia didn’t portray the Lions as trailblazers. If their message brought more attention to the inequities and made some people think about how they view the situation, he thinks they’ve succeeded in something.

“I think that if there's any chance that maybe we got everybody to maybe stop and think for a minute, that was really, really great,” Patricia said. “The simple thing is just listen and right now that's really what we just want everybody to do — is listen.”

While some wondered what real impact postponing games will do and why athletes are choosing to use their platform to disrupt the schedule, safety Will Harris tried to put it in perspective, with a simple solution of just lending an ear.

“Sports brings a lot of people together from different religions, races and socio-economic backgrounds. It brings a lot of people together and I don't want to lose sight of that; I know that we're not going to lose sight of that,” Harris said. “But it's also important to just take a pause and really hear people out and be empathetic with how people are feeling.”

It’s not clear what the next steps will be, but the Lions players want to be part of the discussion and the organization seems to support them in those efforts. There are concepts that they’ve considered, but formalizing those and getting buy-in on how to move forward isn’t as easy as the initial discussion.

“That's obviously a big part of all the conversation is trying to converse about what do we do next. We're certainly trying to put ideas together. We have some ideas that we're trying to put into action, and a lot of it is just making sure we do it the right way and trying to figure out a way that it's impactful and that people continue to stop and think and have a conversation and listen to each other,” Patricia said. “I think if there was just one answer, I think all of us — any of us — would just do it.

“I think the really difficult part is that we just got to make sure that we don't numb to anything and we continue to have the conversation; I think that's the biggest part of it.”

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard