EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – For the second day in a row, the Giants today practiced and completed a full workday while continuing to discuss their quest for social justice and their insistence to take meaningful action.
They did so on a day when seven NFL teams cancelled practice and other professional sports leagues consider a course of action in the wake of the shooting Sunday of Jacob Blake, who was fired upon seven times by police officers in Kenosha, Wis. as his three sons looked on.
Coach Joe Judge spoke to the team's leadership council and the players chose to practice, in part because they are mindful of having no preseason games to help them prepare for a season that is scheduled to begin in 18 days.
"The players voiced that opinion," Judge said on a post-practice Zoom call. "They wanted to continue going with it. We had conversations with them two days ago and then again yesterday. These guys have been very urgent on continuing on work. That doesn't detract at all from what we're doing in the community, from the action we're taking as a team, for how we're staying organized within the social justice groups. We have the Team of Teams program. We're just making sure that we allot time within a day that we have that as a team to work going forward.
"We're going to reconvene later tonight before we kick off the special teams and unit meetings. We're letting the players think about what they want to do. We're going to have conversations as a coaching staff and ownership tonight, and we'll have more answers then."
Next on the schedule is an intrasquad scrimmage tomorrow night in an empty MetLife Stadium. Is it possible the organizational discussions could result in that event being cancelled?
"I can't really live in the hypotheticals right now," Judge said. "Right now, we're planning on having the scrimmage tomorrow. We'll continue the conversations with our team later on and we'll see where that takes us."
The players are determined to lend their voices to the growing athletes' movement but weren't ready to say exactly what form that will take.
"As far as what we're going to do and the steps we're going to take next, that's something that we're in discussion about," wide receiver Sterling Shepard said. "It's sad that we have to take the time away from football and prepare for a season that is coming up here pretty soon to talk about these things, another senseless shooting that's happened. It's sad that it has to be that way. But yeah, as far as what we're going to do next, I'm going to talk to my teammates and the leadership group and the coaches and we're going to come up with a plan."
Players in the NBA, WNBA, MLS and Major League Baseball declined to play scheduled games yesterday. Asked if boycotting a game is possible, running back Saquon Barkley said, "I can't really just go and speak on behalf of the whole league. But for us, that's something that we're going to talk about within our groups, within our team. What's talked about in meetings, in players' meetings, stays in players' meetings.
"Going on with what the NBA did, I definitely commend them for doing that. The WNBA, the ladies, did it, too. I want to commend them for standing up, using their platform and using their voice. But for us to say, the Giants and the NFL, that's the stuff that's part of our discussions going on. We've been given an opportunity for our leadership group and to be able to talk to the team and try to figure out things we can do to try to help."
The Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans, Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos, the Washington Football team and the Jets all canceled practice today, one day after the Detroit Lions were the first team to take that action.
"I saw a lot of teams cancelled practice," Barkley said. "We had that conversation. We felt that we wanted to be able to continue to go out there and practice if we were all in the right mind space, which we all agreed that we were. Obviously, we've been talking. We're going to come up with something that we want to be able to do. Hopefully, it's soon."
Barkley said the players are at the forefront of the discussions, with Judge's blessing.
"It's always, obviously, led by the coaches, but it's always a player-driven team," Barkley said. "Those are the teams that want to be great. Obviously, there's a situation going on in this world that needs to be fixed. It's not just going to be solved in one day. We try to find ways how we can impact our community and do things where we start doing our community and challenge other teams to do in their communities so we can spark a change. Coach Judge has been doing a really great job. All the coaches have been doing a really great job of hearing us, listening us out and being on board with us."
Like all of the Giants players, Barkley is deeply determined to contribute to the solution to a problem that cannot persist.
"It's just sad," Barkley said. "You look at it like, what if that was my brother? I know my father went through a similar situation when I was in college. In that little situation right there, you can lose someone that you really care about. I think when you look at it, you can't look at it as 'Oh, it's Jacob Blake.' Obviously, I know he didn't pass away. But you can't look at it like that. You have to put yourself, what if I was in that situation? What if it was your brother? What if it was your cousin? What if it was (Sterling) Shep? What if it was Golden (Tate)? All those guys. That's kind of the way I look at it. Then how it makes me think and makes me feel.
"I understand that God put me in a position to be able to have a platform and to be able to use my voice. I've been big on knowing my history, especially with the athletes and the Bill Russells of the world, Colin Kaepernicks of the world. How they were able to handle those situations using their voice. It creates a conversation that you have to have yourself. What can you do? What can you do? That's just the start. You have to start those conversations, and then take action. Find ways you can do, and that's what we're trying to do with our team. We can continue to find the right things to do and we can continue to do it."