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Jets’ push for social justice solutions bringing team together

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The Jets returned to the practice field Saturday after two days of some emotional conversations about social justice.

Players and coach Adam Gase said the team came together in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha, Wis., to share feelings and try to formulate a plan to bring about change. The Jets decided not to practice on Thursday, instead meeting for close to five hours of discussion. The players had a scheduled day off Friday when discussions continued.

“It was awesome to see the team come together and really hear out everyone’s feelings and views on the situation,” offensive lineman Jonotthan Harrison said. “In a way, it has pulled us closer together and helped us realize as a group, let’s have each other’s backs. We understand that the situation may affect guy A more than it affects guy B, but we’re all in this together and let’s all, as an organization, come together and work toward finding a way to help.”

Harrison said the players are not ready to say exactly what they are proposing for change. They are still working through an action plan, but he summed up what the players are hoping for.

Jonotthan Harrison said the social justice discussions the Jets have had has pulled the team "closer together."
Jonotthan Harrison said the social justice discussions the Jets have had has pulled the team “closer together.”Bill Kostroun

“We would like to see positive change,” Harrison said. “We’re sick of the different groups of people. We’re sick of this opinion versus that opinion. Clearly, we’re sick of what’s going on in society. All we want is positive change. We know that things won’t just happen overnight. We’re fully aware that there’s not just one easy answer to all of this. We know this is going to be a process. As long as progress is being made and as long as we see that positive growth throughout society in some way, shape or form, then all of us, we’re completely happy.”

Harrison wanted to make sure it was understood the cancellation of Thursday’s practice was not a form of protest, but rather to give them a chance to discuss the issues. He also said the players have not talked about sitting out of a regular-season game.

Quarterback Sam Darnold called the meetings “eye-opening.” Growing up white in San Clemente, Calif., Darnold said he did not have to worry about police profiling him or being targeted. He heard stories from teammates that resonated with him.

“I took the time to understand it is different growing up black in America,” Darnold said. “I understand that better.”

Darnold said the group not only shared stories, but also spoke about registering to vote and educating themselves on what the candidates stand for both nationally and locally. Darnold said it is important for them to stay on the field.

“We have to continue playing because, quite frankly, the reason we have a platform is because we play football and we are in the NFL,” Darnold said. “That was a huge point to all the guys. We have to continue playing. We have to continue to push our message across and get our points across to everyone because if we stop playing, that platform can be taken away from us.”

Harrison said the players feel like they have the full support of the organization. CEO Christopher Johnson, general manager Joe Douglas and Gase all took part in Thursday’s discussion. Gase called it “humbling” to be in the room.

“I think our players have done a phenomenal job of working as group,” Gase said. “Those guys, it’s a tight group and it’s good to see all those guys trying to try to do the right things. And, I think I’ve seen some guys really step up in leadership roles that aren’t guys that you normally hear that speak a lot and to see these guys step up it’s been impressive to watch how these guys are moving us forward.”

It has been a remarkable week in sports, with players in all of the major pro sports using their voices to push change. Harrison said he believes they will get something done.

“I’m very, very hopeful and very confident that something will come of this, some change will be made,” Harrison said. “We have too powerful of a platform to not use it.”

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