Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been one of the more outspoken players in the NFL in regard to ending systematic racism.
As Titans players issued a statement on Thursday after canceling their morning practice, it was only fitting that Tannehill was side-by-side with teammate Kevin Byard as the two voiced the team’s concerns over the recent events that unfolded around the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.
“As a team, we felt like it was important to stand up here together, united,” Tannehill said “We may be from different backgrounds, been through different situations and experiences, [but] we’re together and support each other throughout this whole year.
“…We’re tired of dealing with systematic oppression, we’re tired of dealing with excessive force, we’re tired of seeing black men and women die in situations where they should be walking home and spending time with their families. It’s sickening to know that they have to worry about their kids coming home at night.
“I have two young kids that because of the color of their skin, I never have to worry about if they get pulled over by a police officer are they going to make it out of that interaction alive? It’s a sick fact of the world that we’re living in. So, we’re standing up here united, demanding change, that there’s equality and justice for all of those situations.”
Full of emotion, Byard passionately stated he arrived at the Titans facility at 6 a.m. fully prepared to practice, but in meeting with head coach Mike Vrabel and his fellow teammates, powerful and emotional discussions led to the team deciding to take a stand.
The Titans canceled practice, electing to better use their time to issue a team statement and face the United States’ pervasive racial divide head on.
“We feel that with all the recent events that's happened in our country, not only just this year, not only the past year, but the past hundreds of years, we decided that it's time to take a stand today,” Byard said. “We feel that with this moment right here, and today, with my brother Ryan (Tannehill) standing next to me and all my brothers standing behind me, we wanted to show solidarity and be unified, and say that we're tired.
“We're sick and tired of seeing the things that's been going on, on social media for the entertainment. Seeing our Black brothers and sisters be murdered by police like it's nothing. It's time for a change. As I sit here and try to gather my thoughts — this is not a prepared statement. I didn't have time to prepare a statement. I'm coming to you and I'm talking from the heart. I just had a son, just Sunday. I have a one-year-old daughter, and I have no clue what I'm going to tell them or what kind of world that they're going to grow up in, in this country. I'm begging and pleading to the powers that may be, to please, please, we're crying, I'm spilling my heart out to say that we need change, and we need change as soon as possible.”
The message was a powerful one, bursting with raw emotion, disgust, anger and motivation to put an end to racial injustice.
Vrabel stated it was clear after listening to the Titans players share stories and let their emotions out, the team would be more productive focusing on issues outside of football.
“I’m tremendously proud of this team, to be their coach and to lead a group of men that care for one another and who are making this place better than what it was when they got here, making a stand and believing in something,” Vrabel said. “I’m proud to listen to them and to help me lead this football team…I wanted today to be authentic and real. After listening to them and talking with them this morning, we allowed an opportunity to hear from players and understand how they were feeling.”
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_This post originally appeared in our partner publication, the Nashville Post.