ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In the wake of nationwide demonstrations following the death of George Floyd, Broncos President/CEO Joe Ellis addressed the team's entire roster, coaching staff and members of football leadership directly in a pair of virtual Zoom meetings that lasted more than 90 minutes on Tuesday morning.
Speaking first with the Broncos' offensive players and then their defensive players, Ellis shared his feelings with the team's roster and coaching staff that there is no place for racism or discrimination of any kind. He emphasized that the Broncos share the outrage and concern that has been felt recently throughout the country.
Ellis listened to more than a dozen players and coaches who spoke up and shared their perspectives during the powerful set of meetings that were held instead of football sessions.
Rather than sharing a statement over the weekend, Ellis explained that he first wanted to speak directly with and hear from members of the Broncos' roster. Both Head Coach Vic Fangio and President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway took part in the meetings.
Denver is among the dozens of cities across the country that has seen protests over the last several days as Americans have brought wide-spread attention to issues that include systemic racism and police brutality. Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery are among those who have suffered senseless deaths in recent weeks.
Speaking from his office at UCHealth Training Center, Ellis urged members of the team's roster to use their platforms as professional athletes and emphasized that the Broncos had a responsibility to support players in their efforts. Ellis, who said he missed seeing the players around the building and hoped they would soon be able to return, also encouraged players to be a part of the community's healing process.
Several members of the team's roster had already shared their thoughts on social media ahead of Tuesday's meeting. Justin Simmons, the Broncos' 2019 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee, helped lead a peaceful protest in Florida on Sunday, and wide receiver Diontae Spencer continued to vocalize his efforts to curb gun violence in the U.S.
Several other Broncos — including but not limited to Courtland Sutton, Jurrell Casey, Davontae Harris and DaeSean Hamilton — also have weighed in on social media about the need for justice, equality and change. In many of their posts, Simmons and Co. have highlighted the need for solutions and moving forward with concrete action.
Broncos players have previously dedicated themselves to create change in the Denver community, as the team's Social Justice Club Fund has donated more than $500,000 to player-driven social justice initiatives since its inception in 2018.
More than 20 Broncos formed a Social Justice Committee in 2019 to support organizations that focus on education, the juvenile justice system, food insecurity, mental health and homeless youth. Colorado UpLift, Denver Area Youth Services, Food Bank of the Rockies, Second Wind Fund and Urban Peak each received a $40,000 grant as the Broncos looked to make a difference in those focus areas.
Former Broncos safety Will Parks and the organization also committed $15,000 in 2019 to Philadelphia CeaseFire to help stop gun violence in Parks' hometown of Philadelphia. The Broncos also worked with former linebacker Brandon Marshall to make a $50,000 commitment in 2018 to launch the FEEL (Feed & Educate to Empower Leaders) Movement. The FEEL Movement supported three local organizations: Denver Rescue Mission, Adolescents Know Your Rights and Action Youth.
The Broncos have also worked directly to improve relations with law enforcement, as players have visited juvenile detention centers and participated in ride-alongs during the last several years. Garett Bolles and Melvin Gordon each made donations to Denver's first responders earlier this year in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
On Tuesday, though, as Ellis spoke to the members of the Broncos' roster and coaching staff, the focus turned toward how to continue to make a difference in the days ahead. He explained to the players that he believes they — along with support from the organization — have a real opportunity to be part of the healing and education process.
In an impactful pair of meetings, the Broncos took their first steps toward that change.