A few days after another Black man was shot by a white police officer—this time in Kenosha, Wis., Aug. 23—Bears players decided not to practice.
As a group, they released a statement indicating that they were pausing football activities to discuss racial injustice and police brutality.
In a video call with the media Thursday, Bears chairman George H. McCaskey told reporters that he understood and supported the players' course of action.
"Some of these issues that need our attention, that demand our attention, are more important than sports," McCaskey said. "And I think our guys realize that if they have a platform where they can voice their concerns and make things better, they're going to try to take advantage of it."
With the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis May 25 and the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha three months later, professional athletes have increasingly spoken out against systematic racism and other societal issues.
McCaskey wants Bears players to feel comfortable speaking out and voicing their concerns about issues they're passionate about.
"I do get the sense that players feel freer to voice their opinions, and we're encouraged by that," McCaskey said. "We want to encourage that. We want Halas Hall to be an environment of inclusion, of candor, of good communication. And it's heartening to me that players feel comfortable speaking up."
Bears players have vowed to take action to effect change. It's not known whether that will include any game-day demonstrations, but McCaskey will have their backs regardless.
"I hope the players know that they're in an environment here where they will be supported, and we've told them that whatever they decide to do, we will support them," McCaskey said. "I'm very impressed that for a lot of guys it's more than the symbolism of taking a knee. It's concrete action to make the positive change in our community. If they feel more encouraged now to speak out, we welcome that."
McCaskey works closely with players on the Bears' social justice committee, which was formed in 2018 after the NFL announced an initiative where the league and individual clubs match up to $250,000 of players' donations to social justice causes.
"I'm very excited about the prospects of the social justice committee," McCaskey said. "There are two things that I like about it: One is that it's a collaboration. The clubs have pledged to match whatever the players put up in terms of financial support. And also that the players want it to be more than just donating money. They don't want to write a check and walk away. They want to have an impact, they want to be involved in programming where they may have decided to donate funds.
"That's been made more challenging of course because of COVID, but they want to be involved, and they do a great job researching the various entities that are being considered to make sure that their time and their money is going to be well spent."
The Bears are presently assisting their players search for more worthy causes to help.
"We want to identify and streamline some of the ideas that they had," McCaskey said. "Vet them a little bit, make sure that there's things that we can act on. It's very important to the players. The sense I get is that they want it to be more than talk. They want it to be concrete action. So we're trying to find out the ways to channel our efforts to have the greatest impact."