DENVER — When they keep score in team sports, the only color that draws ire from one group is the uniform hue worn by the other group.
On one side, black players will hug with white players, whites will laugh along with blacks, blacks and whites of the same uniform color will work together in the spirit of outscoring the guys wearing those different-colored uniforms.
Sure, cliques sometimes form – and sometimes not -- once the contest is finished and everyone goes about their civilian lives. But inside the locker room, between the lines, team sports conquer racial divides.
"I think that’s true," Broncos safety Kareem Jackson said in a Zoom video media call Tuesday. "For us, having so many guys in that locker room from all walks of life, all ethnicities, we all grew up different from different parts of the world and we all come together for one common goal and one cause and that’s to try to win a ballgame.
"When it comes to something like this where it’s kind of dividing the world, that’s why I say we need to get out as a team and show … we’re not only unified on the field, we’re unified off the field. We can all be brothers off the field. … Because this is a sad time what we’re going through right now and sports is one of the biggest things in which everybody has to be on the same page.
"So why can’t we be on the same page when it comes to getting out in the community and doing something that’s a great cause and can bring everybody together? To me it’s all about trying to bridge the gap right now."
Jackson refers to the global reaction to the May 25 killing of a black man by a white policeman in Minnesota. The tragedy set off nation-wide peaceful protests by day and violent riots for several nights.
Broncos chief executive officer Joe Ellis led two Zoom meetings Tuesday morning -- one with Denver’s offensive players and coaches, the other with the defensive players -- to discuss the racial incidents that continue to occur in the United States, and the subsequent civil unrest.
After Jackson talked and heard others speak during his emotional meeting, he got the idea the Broncos should do something more.
"We have to figure out what we can do not only as a team, but as an organization how can we get out and how can we impact the Denver community," he said. "Maybe we can get out and put together a march as a team or something like that. I feel like we have to get out on our community and be heard."
Jackson wasn’t just thinking out loud. He was going to call a couple teammates Tuesday night to discuss a possible march.
"We’ve got to put some action behind our words," he said.
It won’t be easy to pull off. Many players are still out of town because of coronavirus – the meetings have been by Zoom. And organizing a peaceful demonstration requires an incredible amount of planning and approval from government officials. Still, now that Jackson has put the idea out there …
"It might be a thing where we need to go out and we need to put together maybe our own march," Jackson said. "So everybody in these communities can actually see us. And see we’re there to help them, we’re all on the same page with them. Because a lot of times it can feel like we’re not connected to what’s going on in the real world. Just to let everybody know we’re impacted by this as well and we’re there to support however we need to support."
Jackson is wealthy and relatively famous after playing 10 seasons as a starting NFL safety, first with the Houston Texans and now with the Broncos. He was asked: When the uniform comes off, what is the biggest challenge about being a black man in America?
"To me it’s still having to be racially profiled," he said. "Regardless of who I am. When I take that uniform off I’m just another regular citizen, just another regular African American.
"I’ve been in several situations where I’ve been racially profiled by cops. I was just telling someone earlier a story about – this was back when I was playing in Houston -- and getting pulled over and once they walk up to the car and they see me, they instantly ask, “Who’s car is this?’
"To me it’s an insult because, what makes you ask me that question? Like I can’t afford this type of car? And granted, you obviously don’t know who I am but because I’m an African American driving a nice car, what makes you think I can’t afford this car?
"I think that’s the biggest issue. That’s the obvious issue."
SUGGESTED VIDEOS | Sports