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Fournette: "This is a big step for all of us…"


JACKSONVILLE – Leonard Fournette had the microphone and the crowd's attention.

He had the support of his Jaguars teammates, too – all part of a historic and emotional morning in downtown Jacksonville.

"This is bigger than me, this is bigger than football," Fournette told a gathered crowd outside Jacksonville's City Hall Tuesday morning. "We're going to continue coming together praying, coming together and doing what we have to do for our kids, the next generation.

"Black Lives Matter. Let's keep fighting, y'all."

Fournette spoke shortly before a peaceful walk through downtown – from City Hall to the Duval County Courthouse and back – to promote racial equality. The fourth-year running back organized the event that also included Jacksonville mayor Lenny Curry, Jacksonville sheriff Mike Williams, Jacksonville native and rapper/comedian Lil Duval, multiple Jaguars players and demonstrators.

"This is a big thing," Fournette told reporters afterward. "I'm happy to be a part of this."

Participants walked against a historical backdrop.

Pre-dawn Tuesday, work crews removed a statue and plaque honoring confederate soldiers in Hemming Park, which sits directly across Duval Street from the City Hall steps where Fournette and Curry addressed the crowd. The monument had stood since 1898.

"We came together, the statue's gone," Fournette said. "That's another big thing."

Curry, speaking after Fournette, told the crowd "I hear you" – and that all confederate monuments in Jacksonville will be removed.

"This is one action," Curry said. "There is more work to come. Yesterday, there was a confederate monument in the park. It's gone. And the others in the city will be removed as well.

"We hear your voices. We have heard your voices."

Fournette called Curry's participation Tuesday, "beautiful."

"It's another step for us to get where we want to be," Fournette said. "We came together, put some ideas together and as you can see, we came up with some great ideas."

This was the second time in five days such a walk had a Jaguars presence, with about 20 players along with coaches and front-office staff walking from TIAA Bank Field to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and back again last Friday. Linebacker Myles Jack, wide receiver Keelan Cole, defensive tackle Abry Jones, wide receiver Chris Conley and running backs coach Terry Robiskie were among Jaguars players and coaches participating Tuesday.

"The biggest thing I want to get out to y'all – and to everyone – is it's not about the flag at all," Fournette told the crowd. "I want y'all to understand that. It's about us wanting equal rights and understanding our place as young black men, because it's hard being black out here right now. And it's tough.

"This is a big step for all of us, and I'm happy to see blacks and whites out here together doing this. This is a wonderful thing. I didn't grow up being racist or my parents teaching me racism. We've got to stop that ----. That --- is bad, man. We've got to. It's bad, man."

Fournette, speaking to the crowd before the walk, added: "I have kids. I want you to put that out there, too. My fear right now is my kids getting older, getting stopped and getting killed, getting shot".

"I'm keeping it real," he said. "That's the biggest fear right now."

Fournette, speaking to reporters after the event, emphasized the need for continued focus on the issues that prompted Tuesday's walk – and continued action from the city.

"As time goes on, we're going to talk more and more about it," Fournette said. "You have to start with the little steps in order to take the big steps. Right now, he [Curry] is taking all those down. That's a wonderful start. We have to keep going.

"I want people to open up their ears and their hearts and listen and understand right now. It's all about listening and understanding. … It's bringing us all together. It's strong right now.

"As you can see, it means a lot. You hear people: They mean it with their hearts."

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