Packers OT: Boycott won’t bring needed change

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Green Bay Packers tackle Billy Turner wants societal change as much as much anyone, but he doesn’t think players skipping NFL games is the way to bring it about.

Turner, who has been outspoken on social injustices throughout the offseason, said Friday that he and his team have discussed a wide array of options to help promote change but questioned whether not playing in the regular season would be effective.

“Yeah, we can go out there and boycott football games,” Turner said Friday. “Sure, we can do that; that’s easy. What change is that going to bring initially and right away? Football fans across the country and the world pissed off because they can’t watch football. What is that negativity going to bring to the world because we’re not out there playing this game? I don’t know that that necessarily creates change initially.

“The system that is so brutally and utterly ruining everything that is freedom in this country is what needs to change and there’s a strategic way that, I think you attack that from the feet. You take the legs out, you work your way up and you try to make change that way and I think there is a strategic way that can happen.”

Turner was the first Packers’ player to speak since the team called off practice on Thursday following a morning of team discussions sparked by the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, located about 155 miles from Green Bay.

Turner, a Minnesota native, spoke passionately against police brutality against Black people earlier this year after George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis. He also criticized Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for his comments about players protesting during the national anthem.

“I saw the comments that Jerry Jones made about his team, hoping that the team could do something together before the anthem, and then stand for the anthem,” Turner said. “That’s not what protesting is about. Protesting the national anthem is to get a point across that society and everyone watching football games every Sunday has a chance to see so you get your point across. The idea of protesting is to make people that are higher up – like our President – notice what we are doing. We understand that he doesn’t like that. Why do you think we continue to protest? Because nothing has changed.”

Turner and the two other Packers players who spoke to reporters on Friday, safety Adrian Amos and linebacker Christian Kirksey, praised the organization for getting involved from the top down. Team president Mark Murphy, vice president/director of football operations Russ Ball and general manager Brian Gutekunst all were part of the team meeting on Thursday where the issues were discussed before coach Matt LaFleur called off practice.

“We spoke our minds to them and told them what we wanted as a football team,” Turner said. “Whether that is calling out the people who sponsor the Green Bay Packers, whether it is letting their voice be heard to the media, whether that is just them being there and being in those meetings and truly hearing what we are saying.

“We would love for all 32 NFL owners to get out there and make meaningful statements, to speak from the heart about what they truly believe. Whether they believe the hype or they don’t believe the hype, at least we know where they stand. So, that was part of our conversation.”

Said Amos: “Ownership, that’s the big money and they have a lot of influence within the states. It’s big when those teams come out and speak. That’s their title, owners, so they own a lot of stock in their particular states and they have that influence, so when they say they want to get something done, they can get something done because they’ve had that power.”

Kirksey was among those who publicly supported the Milwaukee Bucks’ decision not to play their NBA playoff game on Wednesday.

“I just know that we need to keep expressing accountability and standards and if the Green Bay Packers are held to a certain standard, then everyone else in their position should be held to the same standard,” Kirksey said. “And if the state of Wisconsin expects us to go out here and win football games and to do our job, we expect our fellow workers here to do their job as well, our fellow officers to do their job as well.

“So we as athletes, all we can do is show people how to go about it the right way and call out people when they’re wrong and hold people accountable. With us being leaders of this state, telling people we’re going to talk about the issues at hand, and we’re not just going to play a sport and be silent. We’re going to point people out when they’re wrong. I think that’s what the world needs to do, hold people accountable to their action.”

The Packers returned to practice on Friday but LaFleur said afterward: “One thing I want to make sure, and I know our team wants to make sure, that we’re very deliberate about the actions we take in this regard. We know these discussions are far from over and we’ll continue to have them, and we have to be able to balance both being a football player and attack these racial injustices that exist in our country.”

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