Packers cancel practice for discussion on racial injustice

Team screened “13th” documentary for players on Thursday afternoon

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GREEN BAY – Packers Head Coach Matt LaFleur made the decision to cancel practice Thursday after a meeting with the team's leadership council and an emotional discussion with the roster over racial inequality and social-justice issues.

LaFleur first met with the leadership council following Monday's practice to discuss the video showing a police officer shooting a 29-year-old Black man, Jacob Blake, in the back multiple times in Kenosha, Wis.

The incident led to the Milwaukee Bucks choosing to boycott Game 5 of their NBA playoff series on Wednesday to shed "light on the ongoing racial injustices facing our African American communities."

Later that day, the Milwaukee Brewers also opted against playing their scheduled game against Cincinnati to draw attention to "issues that really matter, especially racial injustice and systematic oppression."

LaFleur said he spoke with members of the Packers' leadership council Wednesday night and then called another meeting with the veterans on Thursday morning.

Afterwards, in lieu of offensive and defense meetings, the Packers' coaches met with their position groups before the team reconvened to brainstorm and share ideas about what players and the organization can do to "help make a significant change."

"Certainly there's a lot of raw emotion that comes out in these meetings with players that come from different backgrounds, that come from different experiences," LaFleur said. "They really pour their heart out there and you feel for these guys. (We) just want to continue to listen and see what we can do to make a positive impact in this society."

LaFleur said the decision to cancel practice came from "some really long conversations" and feeling the emotion of the room. Afterwards, several players commented on social media regarding the powerful nature of the meeting.

LaFleur, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' leadership committee have been vocal regarding the need for social-justice reform in recent months, producing a two-minute video, "It's time for change" in early June following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

In a 20-minute video conference with Green Bay media on Thursday afternoon, LaFleur again reiterated the importance of bringing to light the racial inequality in the United States and encouraged players to use their voices to influence change.

"Everybody should be treated equally," LaFleur said. "And it shouldn't matter where you come from, how much money you have, what your race is. It's problematic to me that unfortunately, within our world, that not everybody sees it that way. So we've got to do whatever we can to help change that."

Once the team meeting was over, the team screened the Netflix documentary "13th" for players on Thursday afternoon at the suggestion of one of the Packers' coaches.

LaFleur watched the film himself over the summer, adding "it kind of blows your mind just in terms of how certain things are run in our country and in particular the prison system."

LaFleur said a couple Packers players already have been in communication with individuals from the Bucks and Brewers, and was "encouraged that they'll form something together."

The Packers' organization and President/CEO Mark Murphy already have committed $500,000 to social-justice causes in Wisconsin, and LaFleur said Packers coaches and players will work together to find more ways to get involved.

"I think it's something that we're going to continue to talk about on a daily basis and we'll see where it goes," LaFleur said. "I don't think there's any road map right now to where it leads to. I just know that a lot of our guys and myself included are tired of the stuff that we see on a daily basis and just want to try to help make the world a better place."

As of Thursday afternoon, no decision had been made on practice plans for the weekend. The Packers are still scheduled to practice Friday and Saturday at Nitschke Field before returning to Lambeau Field for Sunday's padded work.

"We know at the end of the day we're going to play football, but the stuff that's going on is much greater than the game of football," LaFleur said. "I think our guys want to play. But at the same time, they want to focus some of their efforts on, again, making society a better place. This is a humanity issue at the end of the day, more so than anything else."

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