JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Look around the other major sports.
Some of the biggest names in the NBA, Major League Baseball and even pro soccer have been upfront about their desire to see social change. But in the NFL, some of the biggest names haven’t stepped into the spotlight.
Jaguars wide receiver Chris Conley is a middle-of-the roster player in the NFL. Like so many players, even those who have played in the league for years, they know that they are very replaceable. That’s why on Thursday, Conley urged some of the biggest stars in the league to step up.
“I think that it’s going to take a lot of volition out of those guys,” Conley said “That is a bold statement and a bold step to take. And I understand some of the reasons why people are not apt to make those decisions. I understand how painstakingly hard it’s going to be for those guys, because of the position that they’re in. But if a statement is going to be made by this league, in solidarity, and everyone is standing up, it’s got to start with them. If we’re going to put pressure on the people in this country who make change for accountability, it’s got to start with them.”
Take Tom Brady, for instance. Considered the greatest quarterback of all time by many, Brady is typically quiet about political matters. He did join the NFL players coalition in signing a letter calling for a federal investigation into the Ahmaud Arbery shooting. Conley wants players like Brady and other star quarterbacks to do something many of them typically don’t do.
What will it take for that to happen?
“A hell of a lot of courage,” Conley said. “It would take someone of notoriety standing up and calling on other people of notoriety and saying ’Hey, we want to get something done.’ Let’s talk. Let’s find this message. Let’s find the actionable things that people can do to change and let’s put pressure on them right now. Let’s put pressure on them right now in any way that we can. Let’s use the platform while we have it because this isn’t forever.”
News4Jax sports analyst Mark Brunell knows what it’s like to be expected to lead. Although Gardner Minshew hasn’t established himself as a star in the NFL yet, he’ll still be expected to be a leader.
“He already has a lot on his plate,” Brunell said. “The starting quarterback, you’re the leader, even though you’re a second-year guy, and you’re already overwhelmed with just the football side of it. I don’t know Gardner Minshew real well. But I know him well enough to know that this is important to him.
“The team is important to him. If there’s a group of guys on the team that are struggling and feel strong about this, then it needs to be talked about needs to be addressed. I hope there’s not one person on the Jacksonville Jaguars that doesn’t recognize that this needs to be addressed.”