NASHVILLE – Jon Robinson sat at his desk at Saint Thomas Sports Park on Thursday and poured his heart and soul into issues now on center stage across the world.
The Titans General Manager made it clear he wants to do his part to make a difference as it relates to social injustice, racism and police brutality, and in an emotional delivery, he encouraged others to do the same.
On the same day, Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk also made her feelings known on the matter.
"I want to add my voice and the voice of our organization to the calls for equality and reiterate our firm stance against all forms of racism," Strunk said in a statement. "Hearts, minds and institutions need to change throughout our country. Those who face racism need to be heard, and more importantly, understood by those who haven't listened before. Our organization and our players have dedicated time and resources to these issues through the 'We Stand For' campaign and we are making a difference in our own community, tackling issues like educational equity, judicial reform, policing policies and assistance for underserved areas. We are proud to support those efforts and we will continue to find ways to impact our region.
"Hearing our players and coaches speak over the last two weeks has been constructive to this vital discussion. I support our players using peaceful protests and their platforms to advance us as a nation. I would encourage those who haven't thought about these issues before to understand the pain, anger and frustration of the black community. Black lives matter. We should all agree on that."
Robinson eloquently broke down the words of the Pledge of Allegiance in a Zoom conference call with reporters.
Members of the organization – from front office officials to coaches to players – have had a number of conversations on subjects of police brutality in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis, and the protests that have followed across the country.
Robinson said he's also been on conference calls with officials around the league, and said he's had meaningful talks with players and members of his staff he described as "real and empowering."
"This being my first opportunity to speak publicly about the issues our nation is facing with respect to social injustice, to racism, police brutality – all issues that are wrong," Robinson said. "There shouldn't be a standard for how to live as a black person in our country. I had a great conversation with a staff member the other day who teared up in my office talking about how he hopes this (Black Lives Matter) movement can create change, a sustained change, so that talk that he had to have with his parents as a young black man, that he does not have to have that same talk with how to be leery and how to conduct himself as a black man in our country. We've got to be better."
Robinson then reflected back to his childhood, when he learned the Pledge of Allegiance.
"It's a pledge to a flag that represents our country, and a pledge is a solemn oath," Robinson said. "It says, one nation – not a black nation or a white nation. It says one nation. It says indivisible – which means united, not able to be pulled apart. With liberty, which means a state of being free from oppressive restrictions. And justice, which is defined by the quality of being fair and reasonable, for all, which is for everyone, regardless of the color of your skin. So, I just think this pledge, this oath that we've all recited, if we can truly put that into action, we can work to change. We can work the hearts and minds that need to be changed, that liberty, that justice, that feeling of one nation, a nation of human beings, a nation of God's children. I think that is our charge."
On Wednesday, Titans safety Kevin Byard, linebacker Rashaan Evans, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill all said they've been encouraged by what has happened in the wake of Floyd's death in Minneapolis, which occurred when police officer Derrick Chauvin kneeled on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes.
Floyd's death has led to more conversations across the world, and awareness, and a lot of that is happening through protests.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel, who has been involved in conversations with his players on the push for social justice during the team's virtual offseason meetings, called for "inclusion, diversity, equality, and opportunity" earlier this month while also acknowledging he didn't see the issues as clearly as he needed previously.
"I'd like to acknowledge my own personal privilege, one that is real," Vrabel said. "And I'd like to acknowledge a social blind spot that either I was unaware of or chose not to see. I've had the unbelievable opportunity to listen to our players … in our team meetings. I listen to them with an open mind and hear and learn what they believe in and how they feel. Amy, Jon and myself have tried to put great people and great fathers and great husbands and great student-athletes onto our football team, and the majority of those men are African-American with a much different experience and background than I'll ever know. And by listening and understanding those thoughts and feelings, and how they feel, has helped me recognize what is important, and what is important is we find ways to respect each others' feelings, that we respect each others' beliefs, that we respect each others' efforts to make positive change in our community where we work, the communities where we live and the communities where we grew up."
On Thursday, Vrabel said he wants to continue to do his part "to make this a positive change for everybody."