The Jets returned to football Sunday when they conducted their Green & White Practice at MetLife Stadium. But the social justice issues that dominated the headlines and impacted the Jets players and organization for the past week are not forgotten. Far from it.
Steve McLendon, 34, the Jets' thoughtful veteran presence on the defensive line, spoke after Sunday's practice to reporters and provided forceful testimony as to why the issues surrounding the shooting of Jacob Blake by a police officer in Kenosha, WI, a week ago, affect him so deeply.
"It's been very, very, very emotional," McLendon said of the past week that included the Jets cancelling a practice and engaging with each other behind closed doors on the Blake shooting and what can be done to prevent them. "It needs to change, it needs to stop. When we say enough is enough, enough is enough. This is what I want the guys to understand. I tell them in the locker room every day, just understand this could easily be you."
He explained that he has four children that occupy his thinking when he hears about such shootings as well as many other gut-wrenching stories.
"When I see a 12-year-old being killed because of a fake gun, it makes me wonder," he said. "I have a 10-year-old who's going to be 12 in two years. If he's outside playing with a water gun that looks like a gun, will he be profiled and shot? Then I see another man that shoots into a crowd and walks by the police and nothing happens. It just shakes me. As a father, it tore me apart emotionally.
"I never want to make this out as a race thing, ever, but in these situations, I'm hoping that we can have something to put in place for officers to be held accountable. Because this is very tragic for me. As I look back, this could easily be me or it could be my children."
"We should fear no man, but that's what's happening now. What do you expect us to do?" McLendon said. "A black man like myself, I get pulled over, I have to have so many things. I have to be sitting up straight, I have to have my hair pulled back, I have to have my window pulled down before he gets to the car, I have to have my license ready, my insurance. I can't reach for anything because there's a possibility I could get shot.
Despite all that, McLendon said he remains hopeful that the Jets among many other entities and society at large can come up with action plans to put an end to these episodes that are tearing the country apart.
"Oh, most definitely. We're headed in the right direction," he said. "But the thing is, it cannot just stop here. It has be all 32 teams, all the guys from upstairs, downstairs. We all have to be on one page and [be of] one accord to help make that change. I do believe change is going to come. And how it comes, we all have to do it together. I'm big on doing things together."