After George Floyd was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer May 25, Bears players and coaches participated in an emotional two-hour video call.
As a group, they discussed Floyd's death and the protests that followed, as well as big-picture societal issues such as racial injustice and police brutality.
Three months later, an equally-disturbing incident spawned a similar conversation Tuesday at Halas Hall. This time the victim was Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot seven times from behind by a white police officer Sunday night in Kenosha, Wis., while attempting to get into his SUV.
While Blake survived, his family revealed Tuesday that the 29-year-old was paralyzed from the waist down. Protests that included the burning of buildings and vehicles erupted Monday night in Kenosha—which is located 34 miles north of Halas Hall—leading Wisconsin governor Tony Evers to declare a State of Emergency.
"The Chicago Bears are deeply disturbed by yet another instance of a police officer using excessive force against a Black person, this time on Sunday evening in Kenosha, a community just up the road from Halas Hall," the Bears said in a statement. "Jacob Blake is the latest name added to a list that tragically continues to grow. We will continue to use our voice and resources to be a proponent of change and we support the efforts of all those who are peacefully fighting for equality and the end of systemic racism in our communities. Our thoughts are with Jacob and his family and we pray for his recovery."
Bears coach Matt Nagy opened his video press conference after practice Tuesday by saying: "I want to start off by giving all of our thoughts and prayers to Jacob Blake. It's very disturbing, and it has to stop."
"We talked about it with our football team," Nagy said. "The biggest thing is all of us understanding the platform that we have and that we need to use that every single day, and it's imperative that we do that and use that platform and do it together. Again, just all of our thoughts and prayers are with him. Being so close to where we are at right now, we're thinking about him and his family and want nothing but the best for him."
With training camp in full swing at Halas Hall, the Bears were able to discuss the incident face-to-face rather than via Zoom video conferencing.
"It's definitely different because you can see the second-by-second head shakes, understanding and agreeing, and if somebody wants to talk they don't have to hit the spacebar," Nagy said. "So that part is good."
Nagy wants all players to know that they are fully supported by the Bears.
"Every one of us is here to listen and keep that word, 'love,'" Nagy said. "Don't just say that when things are going on, continue to use that every single day with all of us. I think for our guys, we are a very mature team and they get that, and I thought we handled it really well."
Blake's shooting left Bears players shaking their heads in disgust.
"It's definitely a crazy situation," said running back Tarik Cohen. "With all the notoriety and attention that has been given to police brutality, you'd think it would slow down a little bit and not still be the main topic every day when you wake up and see it on the news. It's crazy that we still see those same things happening in today's world.
"It's great to be on a team that openly speaks about that. We have open conversations about everything that happened around it, and with that being so close, it was definitely a topic today. Coach Nagy made it known that we all have each other's backs and [that's] the way we're going to carry ourselves about any situation that happens."
After Floyd's death, the Bears discussed their intention to take action to effect change, with chairman George H. McCaskey saying in a statement: "We must do more than wring our hands and hope it doesn't happen again … Through our voice, our actions and our resources, it is our obligation to lead. We will continue to work with our player-led social justice committee to provide funding and exposure to local organizations dedicated to empowering communities that have been oppressed for far too long."
Left tackle Charles Leno Jr. told reporters Tuesday that he intends to inquire how the Bears can help the Kenosha community. Like many others, Leno is also committed to working toward eliminating racial injustice and police brutality.
"We know it's been a problem," Leno said. "We just need more awareness and to spread more awareness—and within that awareness, also spread compassion and understanding for others. I think that's one of the biggest things. And with that will come love, and that we need more of that in this world.
"And also I just believe police training, too. I don't know how many hours those guys do. But I know we train a lot on the football field. I think they need a little bit more because they're dealing with lives and they're handling lives. And every single life is precious."