After the temporary shutdown of the NBA playoffs spread across the sports landscape last week as players protested the police shooting of Jacob Blake and other racial issues, Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie is seemingly braced for the possibility of a similar boycott in the NFL.
“I’m not concerned because I’m supportive of everything that’s involved in terms of trying to create attention and change,” Lurie said during a 48-minute Zoom conference with media on Sunday. “I’ve always been that way. And if we have to sacrifice, we have to sacrifice.”
That’s a striking declaration from an NFL owner, particularly given the history of a league that effectively black-balled Colin Kaepernick after the still-banished quarterback ignited a movement in 2016 by kneeling during the national anthem.
As activism escalates and many NFL teams canceled practices last week to hold internal discussions about social issues, it’s conceivable that some NFL players might push for making a statement by opting out of games or disrupting the schedule as the league ramps up to open the season on Sept. 10.
Lurie said, “I guess my most important opportunity to discuss that would be, ‘What can we do that’s really effective?’ That it’s not simply a statement but something with action involved with it
“I respect the NBA players. They were obviously able to reschedule the games they missed, but just coming together and taking a stand, I respect that fully.
“We’ve had a history in our country of having athletes, mostly independently — from Muhammad Ali, John Carlos and the 1968 Olympics, the list goes on and on, all the way through recent times. It’s nice to see that leagues and teams now in partnership can come together and show the country that these are real important issues.”
Lurie contended that the NFL “should be out front leading the way” in trying to influence changes that address social issues that include police brutality and systemic racism.
As that pertains to a possible boycott, Lurie added, “I’m not worried because I know our players will do what’s best.”
Lurie addressed a wide range of topics. During a 17-minute opening monologue he said that the nation is dealing with “two terrible pandemics” — systemic racism and COVID-19. Also:
♦ The Eagles are offering their home stadium, Lincoln Financial Field, to be used as a polling center for the upcoming presidential election. Lurie said that in addition to closing the team’s headquarters on Election Day, team staff would be available to work voter registration drives.
♦ The anti-semitic statements on social media this summer by Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson were “disgusting and appalling,” Lurie said.
♦ Lurie accepts the competitive imbalance that could come with some teams planning to stage home games with varying levels of fans in attendance, while other teams will play home games in empty stadiums. Last week, Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott said it was “ridiculous” that the NFL would allow such differences. Said Lurie, “Whatever the pandemic brings … let’s embrace it.”
♦ Asked to reflect on Kaepernick’s protest in 2016 and the NFL’s response, Lurie echoed the company line spin expressed by commissioner Roger Goodell, maintaining that the NFL “didn’t listen well enough.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.