Myles Garrett took a deep breath and began his opening remarks with local reporters Thursday in Berea with a poignant demand.
Garrett was preparing to speak from the heart after the Browns held a meeting to discuss what to do with team practice following recent boycotts across professional sports, and he wanted his personal message to be clear.
"I'd like to ask for justice for Breonna Taylor, and I'd like to ask that the officers that shot … " Garrett said before pausing and taking another breath. " … Jacob Blake in the back seven times and paralyzed him, that they be held accountable for their actions.
"We won't stop until there is reform and justice is served."
Garrett was referencing the police shootings of Taylor of Blake — two Black Americans whose cases have sparked protests across the country — and is one of 11 members on the Browns leadership council. The group helped guide the team to a decision Thursday to shorten team practices to one hour and spend the remainder of practice time indoors for a discussion about what all players, coaches and team personnel can do to bring positive change to social justice issues in Northeast Ohio.
"We stand in solidarity with everyone who has chosen not to go today, but we elected to shorten our practice," he said. "We are going to cut it down in half, and then we are going to go in indoor and brainstorm on how we can make change happen in our community and how we can move forward locally and as a state and how us as teams in Cleveland, whether it is the Indians, Cavs or it is just the Browns, can move this thing forward, move the needle just a little bit and be a start of something great."
The Browns have conducted several meetings since the beginning of the virtual offseason program to hold similar discussions. The conversations have encouraged team members to participate in peaceful protests, donate to social activism initiatives and use their platform to inspire change.
Garrett, who said he wishes to get in contact with the family of Blake in the future, shared some of his ideas in his interview. He wants to promote a petition that will criminalize hate speech, and he tweeted a link of the petition minutes after his interview ended.
"I don't believe (hate speech) should be said on forums, whether it's social media, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or openly in the streets where it's marched or paraded," he said. "It shouldn't be like that. It shouldn't be allowed, and it shouldn't be accepted."
Garrett has been one of many professional athletes to take a stand against racism in the United States. NBA players opted to boycott all of their postseason games Wednesday evening to bring attention and dialogue to social justice issues, and players in MLB, MLS and other NFL teams have done similar actions.
Athletes and prominent sports figures across the country have attempted to bring positive change in different ways, and Garrett believes unity is one of the most effective stances the sports world can take to ensure action happens.
"The best way to make that happen is to be unified," Garrett said. "I feel like most of the time when this has happened, it has been individuals being affected. Each person on each team is feeling some type of way, but the whole team is kind of on edge about what direction to go, what they want to do and how they feel. It is different this time. It has been a movement and not just a (Black Lives Matter) movement; a lot of people are feeling this way of all colors and all walks of life.
"I feel like with so many leagues and so many people standing in solidarity in every sport and every profession, I feel like it can't be ignored and it can no longer be looked down upon."
Garrett was the voice of how many players on the Browns felt Thursday before practice. They want change, and they want to keep sports secondary if it means making a difference.
That's why the Browns shortened their training camp practice and planned a meeting for another deep discussion.
That's also why Garrett was direct and blunt in his statements.
He doesn't want his frustrations — or the grievances felt by other Black Americans — to be ignored. He's taking a stand, and he hopes others will, too.
"We all want to have a united voice so that we can't be drowned out," he said. "We want to be heard, we want to promote change and we want to get the ball rolling. We want to make change happen."
Check out up close and personal photos from 2020 Browns Camp presented by Gatorade