The Jacob Blake shooting has elicited strong responses from athletes across the globe. Once again, issues such as police brutality and racial inequality continue to spark discussions about a need for change. Just a few months ago, Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints dealt with a social justice storyline of their own when Drew Brees drew criticism for insensitive national anthem comments.
However, thanks to a creative idea from Payton, the Saints sent a powerful visual message on Thursday about the Blake shooting that continues to generate powerful words and actions from not only professional athletes but also ordinary citizens.
The Saints have been involved in social justice storylines this summer
It certainly has not been a quiet summer in New Orleans when it comes to social justice storylines. In June, Drew Brees, who generally garners widespread respect from other NFL players, put himself in hot water with insensitive comments about players kneeling during the national anthem. The veteran quarterback said he would “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.”
His comments sparked emotional responses from his own teammates, including star receiver Michael Thomas. Malcolm Jenkins, who just re-joined the Saints after spending the last six years in Philadelphia, did not hold back in his criticism of Brees. While the future Hall of Famer issued multiple apologies and eventually won back his teammates, the incident revealed the divisive nature of the national anthem protests.
The Saints also played a huge role in Roger Goodell finally acknowledging that Black lives matter. By opening a DM, Thomas set off a chain of events that eventually led to the NFL commissioner releasing a video in which he stated that the NFL condemns racism and “the systemic oppression of Black people.”
Needless to say, the Saints have had their fair share of social justice storylines to deal with this summer.
Sean Payton’s creative idea helps Saints send a powerful message
The Jacob Blake shooting has added more fuel to the fire for those who demand change when it comes to the criminal justice system. After all, the latest example of police brutality occurred just months after the death of George Floyd. Professional athletes have not hesitated in sharing their opinions about the Blake shooting and the more broad issue of police brutality within the Black community.
While some NFL teams canceled practices as a form of protest, the Saints did not. However, they sent a unified and visible message about the Blake shooting in an incredibly simple yet powerful way.
According to Nola.com, the Saints began Thursday’s practice with a song by left tackle Terron Armstead, who also raps when he’s not playing football. The first two sentences hit home:
“There’s so much hate in America. I don’t really feel safe in America.”
However, that simply set the stage for a visible form of protest. Every Saints helmet featured a sticker bearing Jacob Blake’s name. According to Sanders, Sean Payton suggested the idea to his players while maintaining an open line of discussion for any other ideas.
Linebacker Craig Robertson emphasized that more action will take place beyond the helmet stickers bearing Blake’s name.
“That’s not our main thing that we’re doing,” he explained. “We’re trying to do some other stuff to honor him and honor everything that’s going on. Just let everybody know that we’re not gonna stand for that.”
NFL players have not been shy about voicing their opinions on the Blake shooting
While the Saints opted to send a visible message through the Jacob Blake helmet stickers, other NFL players have delivered powerful messages of their own.
For the Green Bay Packers, the fact the shooting took place in Kenosha, Wis., obviously hits close to home. On Monday, the team’s leadership council met to discuss the situation. Aaron Rodgers provided some powerful words about his view of the main problem.
“There’s a systemic problem, and until the problem is fixed, this is going to be an all-too-common sighting in this country,” Rodgers said. “There’s antiquated laws that are prejudicial against people of color in this state. I think the governor and the folks at the Capitol need to take a hard look at some of those systems that are in place.”
Cam Newton also weighed in on the Jacob Blake shooting with his own blunt assessment.
“What’s going on in this country of ours at times is extremely disgusting,” Newton said. “And until we find a fix, then more than ever we have to unify as one as much as possible.”