When the New Orleans Saints kick off their season on Sunday, it’ll mark the beginning of more than simply another season of football.
In a powerful video posted by the team on Friday, the Saints announced they are dedicating the 2020 campaign to creating meaningful change for Black women in America, and raising awareness of the intersection of racism and sexism that all too often sees the voices and names of Black women pushed to the side.
“We care about the issues that plague our community and in light of all the things that we see going on in our country, we as Saints want to utilize our platform this season for meaningful change. Not to distract from issues, not to stick to sports, but to work together as teammates for meaningful change,” several members of the Saints said in the video, which brought together the voices of Malcolm Jenkins, Demario Davis, Alvin Kamara, Thomas Morstead, Cameron Jordan, Craig Robertson, Terron Armstead and Drew Brees.
“Our goal is to raise awareness around the current state of Black women in America. When it comes to the broader conversation of social justice, Black women are usually left out — as is evidenced in the case of Breonna Taylor.”
Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was shot and killed by police just after midnight on March 13 after officers forcefully entered her apartment in search of a man not at the residence. Taylor, an emergency room technician, had been sleeping just before she was shot five times. The three officers involved have not faced charges despite countless public cries for justice.
“We are failing to acknowledge the intersecting impacts of racism and sexism of Black women,” the Saints players explained. “As men, we feel like it’s time to evaluate our spaces, do our part, and use our platform to uplift the stories of our most disenfranchised. By uplifting our leaders, the left out, and the overlooked, we can bring about solutions that elicit systemic change both in New Orleans and around the country and ultimately make a safer, more equitable America.”
In an accompanying article written by Saints writer John DeShazier, Saints linebacker Demario Davis explained the importance of having the team come together with one unified message in the fight against racism and the decision to dedicate their platform to women’s stories.
“A lot of times, we deal with African-American issues and what gets highlighted is the men. Or we deal with gender issues or women’s issues, and what ends up getting highlighted is white women. And so, when you have African-American women – they’re kind of doubly discriminated against,” Davis told DeShazier. “We wanted to highlight a lot of issues that were going on around them. And so we wanted to use this season as an opportunity to listen and learn [about] what’s going on in that community, and also highlight those issues and bring awareness to it and try to bring change.”
As part of the Saints’ ongoing mission for change, they will be holding weekly roundtable discussions focused on issues related to and faced by Black women throughout the United States. Video of these conversations will be released online each week prior to game day, giving those watching and following along resources to learn from. They will also wear T-shirts with #SayHerName, the rallying cry of justice for Taylor, emblazoned on them during warmups every week.
“We invite you take a journey with us this season to help us ensure that all people are treated equally and fairly. To have, and live, full, complete lives, for future generations to come,” the Saints said. “Because we are the Saints. And it’s time we say her name.”
The Saints’ announcement comes at an especially critical time in the fight against racism, with those in the sports sphere using their platforms to drive awareness, educate others and push for social justice. Social justice and the Black Lives Matter movement will undoubtedly continue to be a crucial part of this upcoming NFL season as players take the lead in speaking out and challenging those in positions of power to push forward for progress against systemic racism and police brutality.
On Thursday, several Miami Dolphins players released a video announcing that they, as a team, decided that they would be staying inside their locker room for the singing of both the national anthem and Lift Every Voice and Sing before every game this season.
The Houston Texans made the same decision ahead of their season opener in Kansas City Thursday night, remaining in their locker room for both anthems before joining the Chiefs on the field for a pre-game “moment of unity.”