With the Bears set to wear their 1936 throwback uniforms Sunday when they host the Vikings, the five players who lead the team's social justice committee wanted to deliver an important message.
Tight end Trey Burton, defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, linebacker Danny Trevathan and quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky and Chase Daniel joined Bears chairman George H. McCaskey in a two-minute video released Tuesday night in which they discuss lessons learned from the past and how they can be applied to future growth and inclusion.
Although the NFL was integrated in its early days, there was a period from 1934-45 when there were no African-American players in the league.
"This Sunday against the Vikings our players will wear the 1936 classic jersey," McCaskey says in the video. "That was from a time when unfortunately African-Americans were not included on the Bears or other NFL rosters. Integration of the NFL and the Bears was too long in coming. But we're proud that this year's Bears will be the first African-Americans to wear these jerseys."
Hicks is honored to be among the first African-Americans to wear the 1936 uniforms.
"The importance of wearing this jersey goes way beyond this moment," Hicks says in the video. "Wearing this jersey is a sign, a symbol for the people who came before us that weren't allowed to wear this jersey. And now on our shoulders is the opportunity to represent not only our culture but our city and our team by wearing this jersey and being the first African-Americans to do so."
"After much thought and a lot of meetings," added tight end Trey Burton, "we are proud to be the first African Americans to pull this jersey over our head and take the field to represent this storied franchise and this great city."
The Bears formed their social justice committee in 2018 after the NFL announced a social justice initiative. The committee met with and has been in continued discussion with the University of Chicago Crime Lab, which provided research and resources about areas that need the most assistance.
Last fall the Bears became the first NFL team to maximize the new league social justice initiative by announcing that five recipients would receive a total of $813,850 that was donated primarily by players, with matching grants from the Bears, Bears Care and the NFL Foundation.
The five organizations are the By the Hand Club for Kids, Kicks 4 the City, SAGA, YWCA Lake County and My Block, My Hood, My City. Together, the players donated $291,600 and coaches and front office executives contributed $19,550. The Bears matched the total donation of $311,150, along with additional matching grants from Bears Care and the NFL Foundation.
"We assembled this committee last season to address the important social issues within our community," Trubisky says in the video. "And together with the club we raised over $800,000 to give back to our community here in Chicago. We're proud of this work, but we still have a long way to go."
The throwback jerseys that some Bears players wear Sunday against the Vikings will be auctioned off on the Chicago Bears official app to raise money for local social justice organizations selected by the players themselves.
"Join us in the celebration on Sunday as we take on the Vikings," Daniel says in the video, "we learn from our past and use it to push forward for more growth in the next 100 years."