PITTSBURGH — As a chain of players, coaches and staff linked arms and stretched the length of Heinz Field behind him, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin took the microphone on Friday night.
For nearly three minutes, Tomlin spoke about social unrest and acknowledged the platform and privilege he and his team have as members of the NFL.
“We are committed to taking action and being a part of the solution to face social injustice and prejudice that we all face, not only in our country, but worldwide,” Tomlin said. “It is our desire to be active participants in the formation of a more perfect union.
“That being said, we realize recent events are a continued reminder of how far we are from that. We stand before you acknowledging that we are blessed and privileged. But that privilege does not shield us from sadness. This privilege does not shield us from shock or outrage. It does not shield us from fear, fear for our safety, or a loved one or an uncertain future. Beyond being football men, first and foremost we are husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, uncles, members of a community. We wanted to pause and share with those that are hurting tonight that we see you, that we hear you, but most importantly we stand with you.”
After he finished speaking, Tomlin joined his team in the middle of the field as it knelt in a circle and prayed.
“This evening as we go about our normal football business, we come before you standing united as an organization, as a football team, as football men,” Tomlin said. “From different ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds and even countries of origin. We stand united by our talent and our love for the game of football. That love and those talents have taught us great tolerance and understanding. We realize that those blessings put us in the minority.”
Tomlin said the decision to speak before Friday night’s hourlong practice was made earlier in the day, in an informal meeting with the social justice committee. The stage — a livestream carried on the team website and to a small group of media — was small, but conveying the message was important to Tomlin and his team.
“Tonight, more than anything, we wanted to take the small platform that we have, as small as it is, just as a scrimmage, but to state that we stand united with those who are suffering and we see them and hear them and regardless of our privilege, we’re sensitive to the hurt and the pain and the struggle that’s going on around us,” Tomlin said on a video call later. “We thought it was very necessary that we make the statement that we made. I was chosen to represent the thoughts and feelings of the men and I did so humbly.”