GREEN BAY – Even through the hustle and bustle of a condensed training camp, football can be put on hold briefly.
Head Coach Matt LaFleur delayed his regular post-practice virtual media session by a little more than a half-hour Monday so he could get the Packers' leadership council together to discuss the Kenosha police shooting that occurred Sunday night.
Video showing a police officer shooting a black man, Jacob Blake, in the back multiple times in a southeastern Wisconsin community roughly 150 miles south of Green Bay was on a lot of minds as the Packers conducted a no-pads, jog-through workout at Ray Nitschke Field.
"I wanted to get our guys' perspective, and try to float around some ideas on how we can make a difference and use our platform, because things have to change," LaFleur said in his opening post-practice remarks before taking any questions. "The social injustice, the police brutality, the antiquated laws, (we've) just got to bring awareness to everybody that black lives matter. We can't stand for this any longer."
LaFleur's voice and facial expression were emotional. He called the video "disgusting" and "disturbing" as he lamented another incident just three months after the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis sparked nationwide protests and prompted the Packers during their virtual offseason to deliver a social justice message via video.
This time, LaFleur characterized the leadership council meeting as an airing of thoughts and a "brainstorming" of ideas the team could consider to push for change moving forward.
"You talk about a thoughtful group," LaFleur said. "I'm really proud of those guys. You can tell it means something to these guys because this is real life. This is bigger than football. It's awesome to know that we have some compassionate guys out there on this football team that, No. 1, they care about each other but also they care about just what's going on in society. They're a bunch of selfless guys."
The full membership of the leadership council has never been revealed publicly, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers is on it, and he credited veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis for starting the conversation Monday.
Rodgers said a lot of strong feelings and opinions were shared, and he articulated his own to the media – some of them similar to those espoused in the team's video from the spring and others directed more locally with this particular incident occurring in Wisconsin.
"There's a systemic problem, and until the problem is fixed, this is going to be an all-too-common sighting in this country," Rodgers said. "It obviously hits home being not far from Green Bay. I'm not going to comment directly on the video until more facts come out, but obviously it's something where as a non-police officer, I think for a lot of us the natural question is when is lethal force necessary.
"Again, I think that goes to a systematic problem that needs to be addressed at some point. There's antiquated laws that are prejudicial against people of color in this state. I think the governor and the folks at the Capitol need to take a hard look at some of those systems that are in place."
Rodgers went on to talk about the relationships and interactions he's had with local police officers, many of whom travel to road games as the team's security detail, but how his experiences "aren't the norm" for everyone.
Kicker Mason Crosby is another veteran on the council who's been a teammate of Rodgers' for more than a dozen years now. They both mentioned how valuable they find the tough conversations when their black teammates open up about their backgrounds as well as current and future concerns.
"I've always tried to listen first and listening involves being silent," Rodgers said. "I think there's too many opinions. There's an entitlement that comes with a lot of opinions. There's a lot of opinions and statements made out of emotion. When you react first out of emotion, you lack the ability to listen. I think in listening, you find that empathy. And it's only through empathy and understanding that you can truly I think have a better awareness about what the actual issues are."
Monday's impromptu council meeting was one example, and Rodgers takes seriously the duty of the council members to keep the rest of the locker room up to date on the discussions. He said the team has not yet decided what type of social justice gesture it will make at the Week 1 game in Minnesota, but conversations will be ongoing.
"I'm thankful to Coach LaFleur for bringing that group together as often as we do," Crosby said, "and having us talk and connect in so many different ways, and talk about issues going on in our country and our world. I believe we have a really good leadership group and it's going to pay dividends on and off the field."