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Colts show incredible thoughtfulness and class, focus team meetings on unity

NFL: DEC 22 Panthers at Colts Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There is no escaping the fact that the world has been going through a lot of accelerated growth in 2020. The impact of COVID-19 on daily lives, the forced move from an in-person and fact-to-face heavy commercial and social environment to one where parents and grandparents are now solely ordering all variety of goods online and holding video meetings on smart devices is sort of astonishing.

There are only a handful of occurrences in most lifetimes where something so profound happens that everyone is forced to change all at once and social distancing really kicked that off this year.

Adding numerous examples where members of the black community have been killed on video only adds to what our culture and society needs to address.

Much of the population remains focused on self-quarantine and social distancing. Many of those people are likely feeling a sense of exhaustion, wanting to return to normal lives and hoping for a medical breakthrough to effectively treat or vaccinate against COVID.

Perhaps now is the best time to really reflect on who we are and where we are headed. Certainly it doesn’t seem like the time to simply move ahead without seriously focusing on how we got here and what we need to do to turn us and them or you and me, into we. After all, until we can find a way to gradually erase the lines that are drawn — often for us by other people — it’ll be hard to make progress.

What makes being an Indianapolis Colts fan so special is that the organization truly shows that it cares about people. Much time is devoted to getting out into the community and supporting those in need. Players are encouraged to be active and many have long-standing reputations in their own communities.

Perhaps as important is making sure that players are not viewed simply as athletes with a contractual responsibility to play football. The ownership and front office, as well as the coaching staff, has made it a point to allow the players to focus their attention on sharing their own experiences in the face of prejudice or bigotry. It has given teammates the opportunity to really learn more about each other and bond as a group.

The experience has led to an even greater appreciation for being a part of a franchise that has been run the right way, and focused on the right priorities, for a long time.

After Chris Ballard and Frank Reich spoke out earlier in the week on the importance of the issues facing our culture and our communities today, players had a chance to address the media. Second-year linebacker Bobby Okereke and third-year running back Nyheim Hines shared a bit about their experience in team meetings this week and the impact it had on them.

Asked about the environment in team meetings this week, Okereke said:

Honestly, these past two days we really haven’t even gone over football. We haven’t installed. I think that’s just important for us as players to know that our management, from Coach (Frank) Reich to Chris Ballard to Jim Irsay, really understand the gravity of the situation in our country. We’ve really just taken the time – really two hours each day to just sit and talk. People have shared their experiences and it’s just been a huge learning experience for everybody to just get on the same page and realize the influence we have as Indianapolis Colts players and to try and figure out a plan of action of what we can do moving forward.

He was further asked about how these meetings went, whether coaches primarily spoke or players, and about the general dynamic. Okereke said:

I think the first day, it really started off with players mostly talking. People sharing their personal accounts, whether it was stuff related with police brutality or racism in general. It was very emotional. There were a lot of tears, a lot of compassion and everyone being sympathetic toward each other. I think as we transitioned to the next day a lot of coaches spoke, a lot of players – non-black and black players spoke. Just everybody sharing their experiences and sharing how much the day before touched them and meant to them. I think for a lot of players on this team – players, staff, coaches – yesterday when we first had that conversation, that was probably one of the most impactful social conversations they’ve ever had in their life and for me, easily. I think it’s just been incredible having these conversations and I think we all need to in our circles going forward to have the change in this country we need.

When asked similar questions about the importance and impact of the meetings Hines stated:

Honestly, I think it was just really powerful. Despite all the stuff that is going on in the world, it was some passionate conversations – not only African American, but white males talking too. Some coaches going up there and being very passionate, some guys saying they know about it and need to do more, some guys saying they know about it and are raising their kids – it was big. It was big just for me as a player listening to it for the past two days just seeing the unity that we have with the brotherhood. It doesn’t really matter what is really going on in the world, all we’ve got is each other – we are all people. That is what I really got out of it, seeing despite all the bad things going on in the world – blacks, white, all sorts of ethnicities on the football team binding together as one, all of us saying we have each other’s back. It was really moving and really great. I think a lot of great things were said and it was a very, very passionate meeting. It really built our team camaraderie honestly.

Asked if he had ever been involved in a conversation like that with a football team, Hines said:

No, I haven’t actually. It goes back to our leadership and our ownership starting with Mr. (Jim) Irsay, Chris Ballard and Coach (Frank) Reich. I feel like they made that important for all the guys to hear that. Even today, Coach Reich opened up the floor and anybody who wanted to speak could speak and did the same thing – even Chris Ballard saying something. That’s how we know that we are a great organization. You guys have been around. I think we have a great organization (and) we have great leadership from the owner down to the players and I think that is what is really big and great about the Indianapolis Colts.

It’s pretty incredible to see and hear from Colts ownership, the front office, coaching staff, and players that the priorities have been properly adjusted — especially this week. It’s powerful to see the team do everything it can to erase the lines and help the team come together. At the end of the day, our world and society will be healed not by policies and laws. It will heal when we all come together.

The Colts are doing that already. They have one another’s backs and are forming bonds that transcend the football field. Each player will benefit from this opportunity and there is little question the team will benefit on the field as well.

Perhaps the rest of the world should follow suit.