The original intention of the Los Angeles Chargers' first visit to their spectacular new home in Inglewood on Thursday was to simulate a game day.
Instead, SoFi Stadium took center stage for something much more important than football. In the wake of last Sunday's shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisc., head coach Anthony Lynn cancelled the team's inter-squad scrimmage in favor of reflection and dialogue surrounding social justice in the United States.
"We decided to have a team meeting in the locker room," Lynn said. "[It's the] first time we've been together that close and guys wanted to do it. And after that team meeting, I just felt like this wasn't the time to practice."
Lynn said that more was accomplished in the team meeting than anything they could have done in a practice or scrimmage. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor said he and his teammates are willing to do whatever is necessary to spark tangible change.
"The conversation we had in the locker room was a very good conversation," he said. "Guys – players and coaches – were able to get a lot off of their chest. Some of it was uncomfortable for a lot of people, but I think – and I said this earlier – it was necessary because there was a bunch of mixed emotions as we were prepared to take the field today for our scrimmage."
Instead of taking the field, players lined up behind Lynn in the corner of the north end zone as the coach announced live on NFL Network that the team would not be scrimmaging. Shortly after, groups of players articulated their hurt and frustration with what happened to Blake and so many others.
The indelible images were the first memory the team has made at SoFi Stadium in 2020 – and it may end up being the most impactful.
"This is the first time I've ever been to this stadium," defensive end Isaac Rochell said. "And for the rest of my life I'll think back to the first time I came here: We were discussing social injustices in our country."
The gravity of the moment was palpable.
The words of Blake's sister, Letetra Widman, spanned nearly 360 feet on the largest video board in sports: "I'm not sad. I don't want your pity. I want change."
"Enough!!" flanked those words in each end zone, while the LED boards scrolled the names of those who have fallen victim to police shootings and brutality.
Over the last 24 hours, several sports leagues have opted not to play games. The NBA postponed its playoff games on Wednesday in the Orlando bubble. Many NFL teams, including the Chargers, cancelled practice on Thursday.
Taylor said on a team with different races and backgrounds, perspectives will be different. The Chargers quarterback laid out his reality, though.
Yes, he's a Black man who plays in the NFL. But when he leaves the confines of the locker room and the brotherhood within it, he's a Black man in America. He said has to go to the grocery store or the barber shop with the fear of what may happen if he gets pulled over.
It's a chilling thought that no one should ever have cross their mind. And it's why the Los Angeles Chargers decided Thursday wasn't the day for football.
"The gorilla is out there," Lynn said. "The gorilla is racism. It's there and we feel it. I've lived it all my life. It's just – sometimes when it gets thrown in your face so blatant on camera, sometimes it's just hard to swallow and you want to do something about it. And that's what we're trying to do.
"We knew when we started protesting and we started saying 'Black Lives Matter,' we knew it was gonna be peaks and valleys. And so, even though we're frustrated as hell and sick and tired of being sick and tired, we're gonna keep fighting."
In response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake, the Bolts canceled their scrimmage to discuss ongoing social justice issues within our country.