The Pittsburgh Steelers held a scrimmage practice on Friday. Before they got things started, however, head coach Mike Tomlin delivered a statement, which the team voted on for him to make on their behalf, speaking on the current events going on surrounding racial injustice and police brutality.
The one message that Tomlin has carried on throughout the offseason was that he would support any action that his players wanted to take toward that cause, provided that they do so “thoughtfully and with class”, a phrase that he has used multiple times in different forums.
On Saturday, two of his core leaders in the locker room, Cameron Heyward and Vince Williams, held court for the media, beginning the session with statements about racial injustice. I thought it wise to share the opening remarks made by Heyward in full, as I’ve transcribed below:
You can’t be blind to what’s going on. We’ve seen too many injustices to be silent. Our communities hurt, day in and day out, and we’re left with the question, why? As we are held accountable on the field, we want to be held accountable off the field, and we feel others should be as well.
Along with that, we didn’t want to just give a statement. We understand statements do a lot, but not enough. Going forward, we want to have action behind that, and through our organization, the Steelers, and everyone through this, I think we’re going to have a lot of change going forward with that change.
We understand that it’s not going to be done in one day or two days. We want something attainable that is going to be long-lasting, constant, and provide a better way for our children. As black men, as you see today, when we see these injustices happen day in and day out, we see ourselves, we see our children, we see our fathers, we see our sons, we see our friends, being shot and killed. And for us to stand idly by and not make a difference, that’s a responsibility we can’t give up.
We’ve come together over this offseason to make committees to move forward, whether it’s our voter engagement, in helping voter suppression and getting rid of that. We’ve even had talks about trying to do a voter hub, and the Steelers have been very receptive of that.
Community and police forums, criminal justice forums, working on not only policy, but also police culture, to hold others accountable, and education and community investment as well. We understand that we have to invest in our community. We understand that we have to invest in our children. And through these opportunities, those are the ways we can make change. We understand the job’s not done. We understand that we are only the minority in this situation, but we have a job to do, and we want to make sure that we take advantage of that.
This all falls in line with what we have heard from Tomlin, to put actions behind words. We may not be seeing these actions first-hand on the committees behind the scenes, but they did discuss some of the things that they would like to try to get accomplished. And going forward, we should expect this to be an active part of their non-football lives.