That was the lasting feeling one had after leaving what was an unprecedented march to raise awareness for racial injustice, conducted by the Jacksonville Jaguars’ organization.
“I have never felt this type of support from an organization during my 43 years in the NFL,” Jaguars running backs coach Terry Robiskie said during Friday’s march.
A total of 21 Jaguars players marched on along with the organization, others expressed their thoughts from afar, unable to travel due to the on-going coronavirus pandemic.
Starting at 9:04 AM, to coincide with the Jacksonville area code of 904, the Jaguars set off on what would be an inspirational march towards the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office (JSO) headquarters and back.
Various players, coaches, and staff members spoke to the crowd, including wide receivers DJ Chark and Chris Conley, kicker Josh Lambo, former Jaguars offensive lineman Maurice Williams, head coach Doug Marrone, director of player development and youth football Marcus Pollard, former Jaguars wide receiver/tight end-turned police officer Earnest Wilford, and running backs coach Terry Robiskie.
Signs condemning racial injustice, systemic oppression and police brutality littered the crowd of around 300, showing unity during a time of unrest following the tragic killing of Minnesota resident George Floyd and the many which came before him at the hands of police officers and oftentimes pure hatred and racism. All members of the organization donned “Black Lives Matter” shirts, and they meant it.
The Jaguars have set the tone for the rest of the NFL to follow, however that wasn’t the message being sent today. When Conley spoke for the first time during the march and following the march, that much was clear. The emphasis on today was to listen, to listen to everyone surrounding you in order to enact the change one would want to carry on for the generations to follow.
“Starting with Ahmaud Arbery, the video when it got released, I sat in my house upstairs in my office and I just began to cry,” Conley began, perched at the top of the steps in front of the Jacksonville Sheriffs Office headquarters. Because I saw someone who looked like me, someone who looked like my brother, someone who looked like my friends get shot down and fall on the street like an animal, and that hurt me because I’ve seen it time and time again.”
Arbery was just 25 years old when he was tragically gunned down by three Georgia residents in February. His crime was, allegedly, simply going for a jog.
Conley’s words had meaning today, and as his words echoed throughout downtown, the attention each and every person placed on the moment made it that much more important. Conley paused for a moment to take in the scene, making sure to undo his neatly prepared speech to not get too emotional in the moment before addressing the crowd.
“The events of the last few months have culminated and shook the nation. For many, opening up their eyes to something the marginalized have pointed out the whole time,” Conley continued. “What I and others know is that these atrocities have been foreshadowed. They have been allowed to manifest because of years of systemic indoctrination and oppression. I urge you today, brothers and sisters to know this history. Study it. Seek it. Because through it, though, it make you uncomfortable, it will lead towards change.”
Conley’s messaging and leadership was at center-stage today, perhaps one of the most impactful moments of his life, certainly a moment which will last throughout Jaguars history. The Jaguars receiver would go on to speak about the history of downtown Jacksonville, and how much he learned about its history, taking a “crash course” the night before, discovering during his trek just how much hate still remains.
The Jaguars, as an organization made the choice for this happen. It began with the players speaking to coaches and members of the organization earlier this week. It continued through owner Shad Khan releasing his powerful op-ed, and it led through its head coach in Doug Marrone to reach this point, who attended a peaceful protest in San Marco on Wednesday evening, a point in which the team wants to become just the tip of the iceberg for what is yet to come.
In what was perhaps the most emotionally-driven, powerful statements made today which, when heard alone, will very likely be remembered for a long time. Jaguars running backs coach Terry Robiskie shared his thoughts with the crowd, clearly moved by what the Jaguars were accomplishing today.
At 65, Robiskie has coached in the NFL for nearly 40 years now, coaching for eight different organizations during that span. Not one organization, however, showed the courage and wherewithal to address an issue on this stage as the Jaguars had done today, and for that, Robiskie was immensely grateful.
An emotional #Jaguars RB Coach Terry Robiskie speaks in front of the Jacksonville Sheriffs office:— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) June 5, 2020
“I have never felt this type of support from an organization during my 43 years in the NFL” pic.twitter.com/IJq8XUgGYs
“We see Lebron James say things, we see Floyd Mayweather say things. This is the first time I can tell you guys in my lifetime I felt the organization,” an emotional Robiskie stated. “An organization said something. To have a head coach to step up with his family, to have a general manager to speak to all the players black and white and say we gonna make a statement.”
For an organization, particularly in the NFL, to take lead and action towards stopping social injustice, even if only a first step into such progress is monumental and may go down as one of the most important moments in Jaguars history.
The Jaguars made a statement today - a loud one, and this is only the beginning.
That much was made clear by Marrone following the march. As individuals, oftentimes getting caught up in simply one moment, or one instance of good is enough, but that’s not the case for the Jaguars. This is something they want to continue; to strive for.
“We’ve got to maintain our focus and stay on course. There’s a lot that we are working on and we feel that we can make a difference,” Marrone said following the March.
“Those will be coming out in our conversations with our players first, the coaches, obviously with ownership and the rest of our organization. I can’t tell you what this means to me - again, I say it again, if you are a white person I challenge you: please, if you think you understand, take a step back. Listen. Learn. Let’s not make the same mistakes we’ve made. We need to stand together, white and black. To make this a movement, work — this is only the beginning.”
As Robiskie stated earlier, for a head coach in the NFL to come out in support with this messaging, without any care for repercussions from the NFL or from onlookers, it makes a difference. Everyone deserves to be heard, and that was the final message from today.
Listen, learn, remember, change.