Former Chicago Bears linebacker and NFL Hall of Fame inductee Brian Urlacher put himself in the middle of a social media firestorm on Thursday after posting his thoughts on NBA players deciding to sit out playoff games following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Now the Bears are distancing themselves from Urlacher while his former teammates are condemning his hateful speech.
The Milwaukee Bucks became the biggest story in sports on Wednesday when its players decided not to take the court for a scheduled playoff game against the Orlando Magic as a way to protest the shooting of Blake, who police officers shot seven times in Kenosha, WI just 35 miles from the Bucks’ home arena. Blake was shot in front of his young children and is now reportedly paralyzed. The officers weren’t wearing body cameras. The rest of the NBA decided to stand in solidarity with the Bucks, leading to games being postponed for at least three days before reportedly returning this weekend.
Urlacher posted a meme to his Instagram page criticizing NBA players for sitting out.
The meme read “Brett Favre played the MNF game the day his dad died, threw 4 TDs in the first half, and was a legend for playing in the face of adversity. NBA players boycott the playoffs because a dude reaching for a knife, wanted on a felony sexual warrant, was shot by police.”
Urlacher also liked a post saying “Free Kyle Rittenhouse, Patriot Lives Matter.” Rittenhouse is the 17-year-old who traveled from Illinois to Wisconsin in illegal possession of an AR-15-style rifle to intimidate protesters in Kenosha after Blake’s death. Rittenhouse killed two people with his weapon and fled home before finally being arrested by authorities.
Urlacher became a trending topic on Twitter for his social media behavior. The Bears issued the following statement:
“The social media posts in no way reflect the values or opinions of the Chicago Bears organization.”
Bears players issued the following statement after deciding to sit out practice on Thursday to stand in solidarity with other athletes protesting police brutality in the wake of Blake’s shooting.
Urlacher’s former teammate Matt Forte later condemned Urlacher’s comments.
The comment @BUrlacher54 posted is void of empathy, compassion, wisdom and coherence. But full of pride and ignorance! I pray for those who have been blinded by their wealth, privilege and earthly fame that breeds arrogance in their hearts. And those who refuse to
— Matt Forte (@MattForte22) August 28, 2020
Acknowledge racism and injustice but instead choose to place their energy into justifying it by quickly judging the victims life as if they themselves are more valuable because their sins are different or weren’t caught by man… but God sees all
— Matt Forte (@MattForte22) August 28, 2020
Rashied Davis, another one of Urlacher’s former teammates, went on Chicago radio on Friday and said he felt betrayed by Urlacher’s posting. Davis said he and Urlacher have agreed to sit down and have a conversation about his beliefs.
Urlacher is a devoted supporter of president Donald Trump and appeared at the White House earlier this year.
Regardless of his political affiliations, Urlacher’s comments were simply ignorant. He badly missed the point of the Bucks’ protest and co-signed a meme that stated Blake was “reaching for a knife”, which is highly speculative at best based on video evidence. This isn’t a case of an athlete having “different views” — it’s someone with a major platform being impossibly insensitive to a situation that left multiple people dead and caused pain to ripple through our communities.
For a player who had Black teammates throughout his career, Urlacher failed to see the suffering caused by the disproportionate use of deadly force by police officers against Black Americans. The Bucks didn’t skip a day of work — they made a powerful statement through collective action about the dire need for strict police reform after a continued pattern of violence against our marginalized citizens.
Urlacher liking a post that said ‘free Kyle Rittenhouse’ is even more unsettling. Rittenhouse committed a crime before he ever pulled the trigger on his rifle by crossing state lines with a gun that he was too young to be properly registered for. There was no reason for him to show up at that protest with an illegal gun, and his presence only escalated tensions. Now two people are dead because of him. This is not patriotism — it’s a deeply disturbing act of violence that should be universally condemned regardless of political affiliation. Rittenhouse was charged with first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, attempted first-degree intentional homicide, and possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18.
On a personal level, Urlacher’s social media behavior is intensely disappointing. I grew up as a Bears fan with Urlacher as my favorite player. After the Bears drafted him out of New Mexico with the No. 9 pick the 2000 NFL Draft, I spent my childhood rooting him on and collecting his trading cards. Urlacher would go on to become one of the greatest Bears ever, an 8-time Pro Bowl selection, the 2005 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and the leader of a defense that carried a team with Rex Grossman as its starting quarterback to the Super Bowl. Urlacher remains a large presence in Chicago, with his face appearing on billboards for hair restoration all over the city. It’s hard to look back on his playing career fondly after he voiced such hateful views.
Urlacher needs to realize the weight his actions carry. The meme he posted was full of inaccuracies. Blake was not shot for his previous record as the meme suggested — he was essentially shot for resisting arrest, the penalty for which should not be seven bullets in your back. The Favre comparison also doesn’t make any logical sense. In the process, Urlacher broke the trust of a lot of people with his social media behavior — his former teammates, fans, and even the Bears organization. Good on the Bears for distancing themselves from him.