Saquon Barkley remembers receiving a call from his mother when he was on campus at Penn State about his father being mistreated by police officers, who tased Ailbay Barkley in the heart while he had a heart condition.
“It hurt me, it hurt me,” the Giants’ star running back said Thursday. “So that’s why every single day I try to go out and work, and try to push myself and try to go out there and show my work ethic, show my talent and just try to be an inspiration for others.”
The harsh realities of police brutality in America came to the forefront again this week when Jacob Blake, an unarmed 29-year-old black man in Wisconsin, was shot seven times and paralyzed by police.
Protesting intensified in the sports world Wednesday when the Milwaukee Bucks refused to come out of their locker room for an NBA playoff game. The rest of the league’s games that day were subsequently postponed, as well as the WNBA slate in a showing of solidarity.
Barkley commended both leagues for standing up and using their platform in hopes of igniting change.
“Words really can’t describe how you feel,” Barkley said. “It makes you sick, especially being a black man and just how I know my parents raised me. When you see those situations happen and they continue to happen, like I said, words really can’t describe.”
Some Major League Baseball games are also being postponed in the name of social justice, and some NFL teams are following suit by canceling practices. The Detroit Lions started that trend Tuesday.
The Giants practiced Wednesday and Thursday, in part because as such a young team, the veteran leaders didn’t feel it would be fair to take away opportunities from players who are trying to make the 53-man roster without any preseason games.
“Players voiced that opinion,” head coach Joe Judge said. “They wanted to continue going with it. We had conversations with them two days ago and then again (Wednesday), but these guys have been very urgent on continuing on work that doesn’t detract at all from what we’re doing in the community, from the action we’re taking as a team, from how we’re staying organized within the social justice groups.”
Still, Giants players, coaches and ownership planned to reconvene with another meeting Thursday night to discuss the possibility of not holding their Friday night intrasquad scrimmage at MetLife Stadium.
“Obviously there’s a situation that’s going on in this world that needs to be fixed, and it’s not going to just be solved in one day,” Barkley said. “So we try to find ways how we can impact our community ... challenge other teams to do in their community so we can spark a change. Coach Judge has been doing a really great job, and all the coaches have been doing a really great job of hearing us and listening us out and being on board with us.”
For Barkley, what hits home the most is pondering the reality that any of these acts of injustice could be directed toward his younger brother or a Giants teammate.
“I understand that God put me in position to be able to have a platform and to be able to use my voice,” Barkley said. “I’ve been big on knowing my history, especially with the athletes and Bill Russells of the world and Colin Kaepernicks of the world, how they were able to handle those situations and use their voice. It creates a conversation that you have to have with yourself. What can you do? That’s just the start. You have to spark those conversations and then take action.”
Barkley and Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard were among the speakers in a Black Lives Matter video released by NFL players June 5 — less than two weeks after Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for almost eight minutes.
“I kind of use football as an escape, and it’s been real hard to use it as an escape when you see what’s going on around in the world,” Shepard said. “As far as what we’re going to do and the steps we’re going to take next, that’s something that we’re in discussion about. It’s sad that we have to take the time away from football and preparing for a season that is coming up here pretty soon to talk about these things — another senseless shooting that’s happened. It’s sad that it has to be that way.”
The Giants waived rookie wide receiver Tony Brown and signed rookie running back Tavien Feaster on Thursday.
Feaster played as a graduate transfer at South Carolina last fall after spending his first three collegiate seasons with Clemson. He was the Gamecocks’ leading rusher with 572 yards and five touchdowns.
Feaster initially signed as an undrafted free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who waived him Aug. 8.
The Giants practiced without starting inside linebacker and likely team captain Blake Martinez on Thursday.
Judge said he was “not overly concerned” but didn’t have details on a potential injury until Martinez finished being evaluated by trainers.