A photograph emerged last week from southern Florida. It showed 19 members of the Buffalo Bills. They represented different races, different ethnicities. That photo meant a lot to Bills head coach Sean McDermott, now more than ever.
"I think it's a great example, that visual of what our world needs to look like with the guys smiling together, hands on each other's shoulders. I think that's a great snapshot for America," McDermott explained Wednesday in a Zoom call with the media, adding that, yes, the lack of social distancing made him a "little bit uneasy in these times" with COVID-19 still prevalent in our country.
Like so many, McDermott was dismayed by some of the events of the past week and the senseless killing of George Floyd while in the custody of police officers on May 25 in Minneapolis. He, too, has seen the peaceful protests and the late-night looting. The fourth-year head coach gave us an idea of his message he shared during a team-wide Zoom call on Monday.
"I'm disappointed. As a coach in the NFL, I know this hits very close to home, or hits directly home for a lot of the guys on our football team." he said. "When we talk about doing things the right way, I feel strongly about, as a country, right now we need to unify.
"I know emotions are very high right now and that's to be expected, but as I shared with our players, let's channel that energy into doing good in our communities."
McDermott, along with general manager Brandon Beane and owners Kim, a Korean-American, and Terry Pegula, have rebuilt the culture in Buffalo, and that's not just about winning football games. The team has a Social Justice Initiative committee that was formed in the wake of Colin Kaepernick's protest several years ago, and also has its players and coaches take part in a variety of community events to help form and strengthen bonds with the people of Buffalo and surrounding areas. There are also bonds built within the building, where those players of different backgrounds come together to fight for a common goal.
"Part of the reason why we share stories in our culture and in our building is to learn about one another," McDermott said. "And with that comes, certainly some differences, but with that also comes a lot of similarities between people. I hope that our team can be a unifying picture of what it should look like. I really believe that. I really do."