Marrone: Focus on racial equality will remain strong

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Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone applauds during warmups before an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

JACKSONVILLE – The focus won't fade.

Doug Marrone said that's the priority now – and the Jaguars' head coach on Friday said maintaining the team's effort to promote racial equality will remain important.

"Our No. 1 priority is that we sustain ourselves in this movement," Marrone said.

Marrone and Jaguars players took part in a peaceful walk through downtown Jacksonville last Friday to raise awareness about the issue, and running back Leonard Fournette organized a walk Tuesday that included Jacksonville mayor Lenny Curry and Jacksonville sheriff Mike Williams.

Marrone, speaking to the media Friday on a videoconference to wrap up the Jaguars' 2020 virtual offseason program, said the focus on the issues will continue in the coming months – and into the regular season.

"We're building some things into our schedule over the summer where we'll be able to have these discussions," Marrone said. "I didn't want to stop them and then all of a sudden they start when we report [for training camp]. I think this needs to be ongoing. I think we need to be progressing.

"When we actually start, I'm looking at things to put things in our schedule where it's not at the end of the day where everyone's tired and beat up and it [the conversation about racial equality] is voluntary. I'm trying to build some time during the day where we're going to be able to discuss these things.

"I don't think this is something from an adversity standpoint that may end. I think there's going to be a lot going on and I want to make sure that we as a team have the forum where it's open where people can express their feelings and how they feel and we can listen and be able to support them.

"That's what my expectations are."

Jaguars Owner Shad Khan joined players, coaches and staff in a virtual team meeting Wednesday. Khan last week wrote a powerful essay on racism that ran on jaguars.com.

"We all know our owner's track record and how he's been with our players," Marrone said. "He's been able to meet with players in the past individually, and he's been around the team quite a bit. We appreciate that. We understand he has a lot of things going on – not just Jacksonville. But he has made it a priority to get a feel and understanding.

"Him taking part in that meeting is really par for the course of how he's done and things he's done in the past."

Marrone said while he speaks with Khan often, he wanted to make sure players who didn't speak with him as often had a chance to do so.

"There were great conversations," Marrone said. "There were things that came up that we're working on. We have a couple action plans and have projects to do."

Marrone said he, Khan and General Manager David Caldwell have been clear with players that their opinions and beliefs on such issues will have no bearing on their roster status.

"It's not going to dictate whether you make this team or not; your ability whether you can play football can," Marrone said. "I've said that. Dave has said that. And it's obviously something that Shad agrees with. We want to make sure our players understand that as we go forward so we can have great thoughts and great ideas, where people don't feel like they're going to be punished because of those thoughts or ideas."

Marrone said the past 10 days for him have "been a lot of reflection and listening and learning."

"I think this is different than anything that has happened in my lifetime," he said. "I've seen starts of this, but I've seen them stop – or fade, is a better way to put it. Now, there's a moment – with the murder of George Floyd – that has sparked an activism that can create change. Our players have done an outstanding job of being aware of how to create change.

"We're all constantly learning what we can do and how we can do it, and how do we use our platform as an NFL organization or NFL player – or being part of it."

Marrone said he expects examples of tangible actions taken by the organization and players will become public in the coming weeks and months, and reiterated what he said last Friday – that he is proud of the actions of the organization, coaches and players thus far.

"We're going to see how things progress, and I think we'll be able to point our finger at things and say, 'Hey, this is where we're moving the needle,''' he said. "We've got to stay in tune to this. It's never going to end until we do have racial equality. That's going to take some time. But we've gotten off to a pretty good start from the standpoint of where we are as an organization. We want everyone in our organization to have a voice and to express their opinions without thought of repercussions."

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