As video of police officers in Kenosha, Wisc., shooting 29-year-old Jacob Blake seven times in the back spread through social media, sparking outrage, protests, and decisions to not play across professional sports leagues, members of the Boston College football team wanted to make sure that every Eagle was aware.
Linebacker Max Richardson texted members of the Eagles leadership council earlier in the week. They decided to take it upon themselves to talk with every position group. At lunch Tuesday, they went table to table.
“Every table we sat down at we just thought we’d make note and say, ‘Did you guys see what happened in Wisconsin the other day?’ To have that conversation,” Richardson said. “Because although we’re in camp and our job is to play football, we need to be aware of what’s going on and we need to know that there are things going on in this country that aren’t right. It’s not political. It has nothing to do with the election. This is the difference between right and wrong. What happened to Jacob Blake was a tragedy. I’m hoping that all 120 guys on our team have seen the video and are aware and that’s what we’re working for.”
Transfer quarterback Phil Jurkovec hadn’t seen the video. But when Richardson and receiver Kobay White sat with him to talk, it opened his eyes.
“Honestly to us, it’s just nuts that anything like that happened,” Jurkovec said. “If that doesn’t outrage you, there’s something wrong with you. It’s very messed up. We’re still continuing to talk and hopefully we can help create change with this as well.”
Those conversations continued Thursday as the Eagles canceled their final practice of preseason camp. BC said in a statement that the cancellation was “in response to the continuing racial injustices in our country.”
“A bunch of things have obviously gone on in our country and with the recent events that happened, we felt it was best as a staff and as a team not to practice,” said Eagles coach Jeff Hafley. “I felt very strongly about that. And we got together this morning instead and we first met as a team and guys got up and spoke, coaches got up and spoke, and it was very touching and it was very emotional. And then we broke up into smaller groups and we continued those conversations that went on probably longer than our practice would’ve went on.
“Listening to our players, of all different races and all backgrounds, we have an exceptional team. We have a great group of people. We have a group of people who are hurting and we have coaches who are hurting and we have another group of people who are trying to understand and become educated and we have a group of people who might’ve stood up today and said, ‘I’m sorry I haven’t said anything, I don’t know what to say and I do have empathy and I do care and I want to help.’”
Watching players open up allowed Hafley to look at himself.
“I grew up in a small town, it was mostly white people,” he said. “And I’ve been very, very fortunate that in my coaching career, I’ve been able to be around and make some of the best friends in my life with people that don’t look like me. To the point where I don’t see color anymore.
“And I can’t say that for every single person that grew up in an area like me. That’s what sports does. That’s what more of our world should be. Guys getting together being able to get along, working together, crying together, laughing together, loving together. That’s what sports does. That’s what sports has done for my life. And I can’t say that it would be exactly that way if I hadn’t had the opportunity that I had to coach so many great players of different races and different color and befriend them.”
Hafley said he believed the dialogue was constructive and healthy.
“I do believe we had some really great conversations today because things do need to change. There’s too much hate and there needs to be more love and it’s sad. I’m very very proud of our football team and our coaching staff today.”
Hafley said an assistant coach, whom he didn’t specify, showed him video of the shooting. He could sense how much it disturbed the coach and they talked.
“The biggest thing that kept coming up was what can we all do to help?” Hafley said. " I think we helped today educate some of our players who really didn’t know what it was like and then they get to hear a story of one of our players and what they’ve gone through in their life and what some of their family members have gone through in their life and how they feel, how scared they are at times and how emotional they are right now. It’s about continuing the conversation. It’s about educating. It’s about educating other people and carrying on this conversation with other people.”
Hafley said the Eagles have discussed ways to create forums, reach out to organizations and raise money. They’ve also selected a local school for outreach work.
“Today we needed to talk and listen to each other and have one of those meetings,” he said. “There needs to be continued talk and continued education and it was a great start today from the team.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.