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Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy calls on NFL owners to help create social justice reform

Jim Owczarski
Packers News

GREEN BAY – Two days after sitting in a team meeting inside Lambeau Field where he heard players speak emotionally about their experiences with law enforcement and feelings on social justice causes, Green Bay Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy recorded a strong video message Saturday calling for National Football League owners to get behind their players to help make real change in society.

“I also call on NFL owners,” Murphy said in the video. “They are in powerful, privileged positions, and can make a huge difference, and obviously have close relations with everybody in all their organizations. It’s time to make changes.

“As an organization, we will continue to find ways to support the Black community, because Black lives matter. Fighting racism is not an issue the Packers will shy away from.”

Green Bay Packers President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Murphy speaks at a press conference at Lambeau Field on Monday, December 3, 2018 in Green Bay, Wis.
Adam Wesley/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

In June, Murphy made a personal pledge of $250,000 to match the organization’s donation of $250,000 to social justice causes in Wisconsin.

In the video, Murphy announced the creation of a $250,000 social justice grant and the opening of the tailgate village at Lambeau Field as a polling place for the November election.

Earlier Saturday, general manager Brian Gutekunst said the team meeting Thursday was a powerful one and that the organization was behind the players and their desire for change. Packers players held the meeting in the aftermath of Kenosha man Jacob Blake being shot Sunday by police officer Rusten Sheskey seven times in the back from point-blank range. Their decision to meet came a day after the Milwaukee Bucks and Milwaukee Brewers postponed their scheduled games in protest.

“It’s one of the things I love about team sports,” Gutekunst said. “You have guys from all different backgrounds, all different experiences coming in there and passionately sharing how they feel about things. I think that helps create some bonds, I think it helps create empathy for others in a time where that’s needed. I think it was a really valuable experience. It’s always valuable to meet and hear how our players feel and what’s important to them. I’m just really glad to work for an organization that’s going to give these guys platforms and voices to be heard. Not every place is like that. It makes us all proud to work here.”

Here is a full transcript of Murphy’s video posted on the team's website.

“Racially motivated events over the last couple months have had an impact on our entire organization, particularly the horrific shooting of Jacob Blake. I met with our players and coaches on Thursday. A very emotional meeting, and players from various background and races spoke on the issues. And the one thing that came across to me is how united they were, and how upset they were with what’s happening in our society.

“I wanted to take a minute to talk about the Packers’ stance in support of social justice efforts. We feel this is an issue that obviously impacts the Black community. But it’s not up to just the Black community to solve this issue. It’s on all of us.

“I often hear from fans that we should just stick to sports. I have to respectfully disagree. Sports has a long history of speaking out for positive change. Jesse Owens. Jackie Robinson. And right here in Green Bay, no better example than Vince Lombardi. He was ahead of his time, signing and supporting Black players when few in the league did. We wouldn’t have our 13 world championships if it wasn’t for Vince Lombardi. He also went to local businesses and said, ‘If you discriminate against my Black players, your business is off limits to the entire team.’

“How can we celebrate the achievements of our Black players, past and present, without acknowledging, supporting, and advocating for their basic rights as American citizens? We owe it to our players, to our proud history, and to our community to use our voice as one of the iconic organizations in all of sports to stand up for that tradition.

“One of the keys I think to resolving this is people in positions of power. Particularly white people. It’s on you to make a difference. The issues we’re facing, they’re not political issues. They’re societal issues. They’re issues affecting basic human rights. And I call on our sponsors, local business and community leaders, and our fans to get behind our players, to get behind the organization and help make a difference on these important issues.

“In terms of next steps with our players, this is something we’re going to continue to work on, we’ll have discussion going into the future. One of the things that’s very important to all of us is to get body cams to police officers. We’ve also had good discussions with Governor (Tony) Evers and Assembly and Majority Leader Jim Steineke. I think our players will be meeting, discussing with them in the future.

“One of the key initiatives for the league and for us here in Green Bay is getting people registered to vote. It’s a basic right that obviously is very important. We’re also going to make the Johnsonville Tailgate Village, that will be a polling station for the election coming up in November.

“We will be making a $250,000 social justice impact grant. That’s in addition to the $500,000 that the Packers already have provided in social justice grants this year.

“I also call on NFL owners. They are in powerful, privileged positions, and can make a huge difference, and obviously have close relations with everybody in all their organizations. It’s time to make changes.

“As an organization, we will continue to find ways to support the Black community, because Black lives matter. Fighting racism is not an issue the Packers will shy away from.”