The Bills Go From Taking a Knee to Engaging the Community

By Mary Pesarchick // @HeyMom418

Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander is one of five team captains that make up what Coach Sean McDermott calls his “Leadership Council.” Alexander, along with quarterback Tyrod Taylor, kicker Stephen Hauschka, defensive tackle Kyle Williams, and center Eric Wood, are the players that McDermott says he depends on to be a “sounding board … in terms of what’s going on, how the team’s reacting to things.”

This sounding board was particularly valuable when the team was sorting out its response to the anthem protests going on around the league. Prior to the Bills-Broncos game in Week 3, a long meeting was held in which McDermott, all the Bills players, general manager Brandon Beane, and team owners Kim and Terry Pegula were able to respectfully discuss their viewpoints and work out a mutually agreeable solution. On Game Day, Alexander was one of 12 Bills players who knelt during the anthem, while McDermott and the remaining players linked arms along the sidelines in a display of solidarity.

Alexander commented on his reasons for taking a knee that day. “We have great privileges here but as … a U.S. citizen I [wanted] to call or bring attention to things that need change. With that, today I kneeled but I won’t continue to kneel. [Today] I kneeled to show those guys …that I am with them.”

He may not continue to kneel, but that doesn’t mean Alexander will remain silent on the issue. On Monday (October 16), Alexander announced via Twitter that he and many of the other Bills players will spend their day-off from practice at five different community centers throughout the Buffalo area. According to the Buffalo Bills organization, the players will take part in activities benefiting local students and youth athletes. As Alexander explained on his Twitter page @Onemangang97, although the anthem protests brought attention to the “racial and social inequalities plaguing our country,” the solution to these problems requires a more “holistic approach.” 

He wrote, As a team, we have decided to engage our community in two ways. First, on Tuesday, October 17, we plan to go out into the community as an organization and serve Buffalo’s young people through five different community relations events. Our hope is that this is not just a feel-good moment, but from these events, relationships are birthed and are continued into the future and become sustainable for the men who come behind us. Secondly, we plan to meet with local public and political officials about how as players, we can help change and improve legislation and institutional culture.”

According to Jonah Bronstein of the Buffalo News, more than 40 of the Bills players will take part in after-school activities with middle and high school girls and boys groups. They will also host a Family Fun Night for children with pediatric cancer and their families as part of the NFL’s Crucial Catch expanded cancer awareness outreach program.

Happily, this same spirit of community involvement isn’t limited to the players. This week, the Bills front office announced a new initiative called, “One Buffalo Organization of the Game.” With input from the Bills players, the team will honor a local organization at each home game this season, starting with this Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay. “One Buffalo Organization of the Game” will celebrate the selected organization’s commitment to making a positive impact in the Western New York Community. In addition to receiving game day recognition, the organization will also receive a monetary donation.

Considering the rancor created among fans, teammates, ownership, and, of course, the White House by the anthem protest issue, it is gratifying to see that the Bills players are not limiting their participation to a pre-game gesture.  Rather, they’re shouldering their responsibility to be a part of the solution. Congratulations to Lorenzo Alexander and all the other players who responded to his example. If this effort represents what the Bills’ “Leadership Council” is capable of achieving, then the team and the community’s future looks very bright indeed.

Talk Bills with Mary on Twitter @HeyMom418

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