Detroit Lions’ practice boycott kicks off historic week in sports


Courtesy of Detroit Free Press

Detroit Lions’ tackle Taylor Decker speaks with teammates behind him about social injustice.

Zack Goodrow and Kellen Voss

This past week in sports will be read about by our kids in textbooks, with the whole professional sports world temporarily going on pause to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The NBA, WNBA, NHL and MLB all had teams vote to boycott games, using their larger-than-life platforms to spread a message against police brutality towards young black people all over this country.

George Floyd, Breanna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery are just a few young black Americans who died wrongful deaths in 2020.

The videos and stories keep replaying in many young Americans’ heads. George Floyd’s neck underneath the knee of Derek Chauvin. Breonna Taylor trying to get some sleep and never waking up. Ahmaud Arbery running for his life.

One athlete who will be showing his support for the death of Arbery is Tracy Walker, a safety on the Detroit Lions and cousin of the late Georgia man.

“I’m definitely going to wear his name on the back of my helmet, for sure, with the whole social justice thing,” Walker said to Justin Rogers of the Detroit News. “I’m working on a few T-shirts that I’m getting with his picture on it. I’m going to play with that on underneath my uniform. His name is going to be on my cleats, the whole nine.”

Walker was one of the many Detroit Lions to protest Blake’s shooting by canceling Tuesday’s practice to let their voices be heard. Defensive end Trey Flowers was also adamant on the Lions players stance on making a change and not just playing football. 

“We can’t be silent,” Flowers said to Michael Rothstein of ESPN. “We can’t say silent. We cannot be going on in the world with our regular day. So today, unified we stand here and we came up with these words, these slogans, and we spread the message, spread the word.”

Those words include “The World Can’t Go On” and “We Won’t Be Silent.” These statements were preached by the Lions’ locker room after hours of conversation by the team. Instead of practicing and preparing for their NFL season opener, they focused their time on something that actually matters to our country and the lives of every individual that lives in the U.S.  

The impact of these conversations wasn’t just felt by African American players. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was a vocal leader in these discussions and so was head coach Matt Patricia. Another white player, tackle Taylor Decker, finally understood the struggles of African Americans after the Lions discussion. 

“Just to hear the pain and fear from people that I care about, people that I love, are going through, I know it’s not my reality, but they shouldn’t have to go through that,” Taylor said to Rothstein. “They shouldn’t have to have that fear.” 

When the Lions canceled practice, it had an effect on the team in understanding each other’s culture, upbringing, and livelihoods better. It may have bonded them, but it had an even bigger effect on the country in general. 

This news was all over sports media and later, national coverage. The Lions’ actions spread all the way to the NBA playoffs, where the Milwaukee Bucks refused to play and boycotted their game. Other NBA teams followed suit shortly after. The next day, several NFL teams also canceled their practices. 

Detroit was the first domino to fall, as several other sports franchises pursued their example. The Lions have made a difference, even if it is a small one with not practicing one Tuesday afternoon. Their actions spread the message of Black Lives Matter and had a ripple effect in the sports landscape. There may be some who don’t like to get into politics, but the Lions stretched the message of this human rights issue to those who just like to follow sports. 

While on the field, the Lions have not always seemed to be a cohesive unit in the past. After their actions in this pivotal time in our country, they seem to be all on the same page. They may not win the Super Bowl this season, but they’re true champions in their brave message and enlightenment in the world that’s greater than sports.