One by one, eight of the strongest, fittest, most influential, most popular and most knowledgeable men in their sport sat in the chair, looked directly into the lens of the camera, and began to champion the cause of some who have suffered the most lethal forms of abuse, been the most marginalized, and the most forgotten.
Because the eight New Orleans Saints teammates participating in the initial phase of their #SayHerName Initiative don't want them to be forgotten.
Specifically, supporting Black women in social justice and racial equality is the purpose for which safety Malcolm Jenkins, linebacker Demario Davis, running back Alvin Kamara, punter Thomas Morstead, defensive end Cameron Jordan, linebacker Craig Robertson, left tackle Terron Armstead and quarterback Drew Brees – and the rest of their Saints teammates – have aligned and chosen this season to initiate meaningful change.
During training camp, in the aftermath of an unarmed Black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wis., being shot in the back seven times by a white police officer, Saints players vowed that they would unify and choose a social justice and racial equality platform in which to engage.
It wasn't solely that act that drove their activism, they said. Rather, a culmination of acts, including the March shooting death of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman. Taylor, while in bed, was fatally shot by police officers in Louisville, Ky., as officers executed a no-knock warrant on her apartment. The man police were searching for was not at the residence; he already was in custody.
"We just wanted to come up with something as a team," Davis said. "With all that's going on, it's important for us to be unified and show solidarity in all of our actions. If we can't be unified in the locker room, how can you expect the rest of the country to be unified?
"So we wanted to kind of use that to be an example across the league, and across the nation, as a way to unify around something with a common goal and also to bring awareness. We wanted to bring awareness to something that really wasn't really being highlighted, and that's the intersection of racism and sexism.
"A lot of times, we deal with African-American issues and what gets highlighted is the men. Or we deal with gender issues or women's issues, and what ends up getting highlighted is white women. And so, when you have African-American women – they're kind of doubly discriminated against. We wanted to highlight a lot of issues that were going on around them. And so we wanted to use this season as an opportunity to listen and learn (about) what's going on in that community, and also highlight those issues and bring awareness to it and try to bring change."
The concept came about from the players wanting to proactively address some of the social justice issues the country has been grappling with, placing specific emphasis on Black women. Saints players reached out to Players Coalition to oversee messaging and support the Saints in their season-long efforts, and put together an advisory board of Black women to help outline how to best tell their story.
"I had all the captains and Alvin Kamara over to my house for dinner right before training camp," Brees said. "It was a chance to catch up on the offseason and prepare for the upcoming season. It was important to all of us that we did something impactful for social justice.
"We have all been involved with various initiatives throughout the offseason, but we wanted to choose one thing we could really amplify as a team for this season. We chose #SayHerName because we recognize the intersectionality of racism and sexism with Black women, and in many of the conversations about social justice, they are left behind.
"We wanted to bring them to the forefront, help them tell their stories, bring attention and justice to the many issues that face Black women in our society, and give us al a platform to listen and learn."
Each week, players will have a roundtable discussion about issues related to Black women and the plights they experience in those areas. That video would be released prior to gameday, and the roundtable discussion will be led by a different player, or different players.
Also, there will be a version of the video shown pre-game, which would also include a highlight of a Black female victim who died because of police brutality. And on gamedays at home, players will wear #SAYHERNAME T-shirts during pre-game.
"That's the gameplan, to highlight a victim of police brutality and the family of a victim of police brutality, a different woman, each home game," Davis said. "And we'll be also discussing other issues where African-American women's issues aren't discussed as much.
"It's intersectionality – the intersection of racism and sexism. And that's where the African-American woman lies. A lot of the things that are talked about don't trickle down to them, so we need to make sure we put a specific emphasis on them."