The video meeting the Bears held Monday to discuss George Floyd's death and the protests that have followed was unlike anything coach Matt Nagy has ever experienced.
"It was probably the most powerful two-hour meeting that I have ever been in and will ever be in," Nagy said Wednesday during a video conference with reporters. "I'm just proud of our family; I'm proud of our players, I'm proud of our coaches."
After speaking with several Bears veterans over the weekend—including Allen Robinson and Danny Trevathan—Nagy decided to devote the team's entire two-hour session on the first day of OTAs to discussing the situation involving Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer May 25.
"Football is extremely secondary," Nagy said. "We have to get life right, and that was No. 1 for all of us. None of the X's and O's; no one was thinking about that.
"So how do we go about it? Talking to some of the guys helped me into deciding on Monday to really spend our allotted two hours to listen and to let our players know how much I and we support them. And then let them feel our love. That starts by listening. We did that."
The session was an emotional one, with Nagy revealing that "there was crying, there was people telling each other, 'I love you.'"
"There was a protectiveness to the meeting, there was a vulnerability to people's stories," said the Bears coach. "I know the word 'powerful' has been used a lot, but to me it was raw. I feel like y'all should know that because this is way bigger than football.
It was probably the most powerful two-hour meeting that I have ever been in and will ever be in. Bears coach Matt Nagy
"At the end of it on Monday, I know I and many others were completely mentally exhausted. But you felt love and you felt togetherness, and that's how this thing starts. And this is just the beginning for us. There's going to be actionable things that we do. Monday was the start of a long, long journey and we're excited to do it together. And then how do we affect change?"
Nagy opened Monday's call with a statement before stepping aside to allow others to share their thoughts. Of the 139 people on the video conference, more than 40 spoke.
"I just feel like listening is so powerful," Nagy said. "I sat on that Zoom call on Monday and I gave my feelings upfront and I literally just sat there and whoever wanted to jump on, jump on and talk and give their story or their feelings.
"I wasn't really sure how it was going to go, because I wanted it to be very natural, very organic. I can just say this: When the two hours ended—and I'm sure we could have gone a lot longer—we were all very emotionally drained, in a good way. There was a lot of emotions that went on. There was a lot of anger. There was a lot of fear in the conversations. There was disgust. There was sadness. There was compassion, hurt …
"I feel like we became a lot closer, which is very important."
Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks conceded that he wasn't sure the meeting would be productive—but after taking part in it, he described it as life-changing.
"To be completely honest with you, I didn't have much feeling towards it," Hicks said. "I wasn't excited to get on that call. I didn't think anything positive was going to come from it. I didn't know why we were having this moment where we were singing 'Kumbaya' and trying to get over what's really happening in the world. I felt like it might be a control situation where they want to control the narrative and point us in a direction so when we talk to [the media] there's only going to be a certain message that you guys hear.
"It was the complete opposite. It was totally different. I watched young black men, young white men, older coaches from all across the United States, and watching everybody reveal themselves in a way that isn't common in sport or masculinity in general, and express their real feelings. Out in the open. Out in positions where you feel like somebody could start pointing at you and say, 'Oh, I don't know if that's a good guy. I don't know if we want him on the team or that's the type of person we want around the building.'
"Everybody let those feelings go and shared from the heart and shared their real experiences. And there was some hurtful stuff in there. There was some stuff where people were changed and altered for life. I won't speak on it because that's their story and that's what they're dealing with. But I will say this: As a team, there was a level of healing involved in that call, and there was a level of us just coming together. We just got a little bit tighter because we had this experience together. It was a positive call, and I think it'll change the lives of some of the young men that we have on this team. It changed my perspective on life."
Trevathan also felt that bond with his teammates and coaches grow tighter. The veteran linebacker revealed that the message he tried to deliver during the meeting was "that you're not alone, that everybody has a voice, that we're in this together."
"If somebody feels different, that's why we have discussions," Trevathan said. "Some people may not understand. Knowledge is key. Knowledge is power. We just want them to know where we stand as a team. Me, I feel like if we don't talk to one another, we can't trust one another. To be a great team, you have to trust the people you're playing with. You know what they've been through, you go harder for people like that, who understand you.
"Basically, I'm like Akiem. I didn't know what was going to be going on, but at the end of the day, I feel like we all got to a common goal. We all understood one another. People spoke up that I never had heard speak up before—different colors, different ethnicities, different backgrounds. Just to see that stuff, it makes a huge difference between being just a regular team and a team that could possibly bring a championship."