Broncos’ Melvin Gordon, a Kenosha native, says players are “fighting the same battle” as Colin Kaepernick four years ago

Broncos running back Melvin Gordon is frustrated with the NFL, saying on Friday it’s been “slow to the party” to address issues of racial injustice and police brutality.

In lieu of Thursday’s practice, the Broncos met in the morning and then reconvened at their facility in the afternoon, discussing Jacob Blake’s shooting in Kenosha, Wis., last weekend, and the unrest in the country following the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody on May 25.

The meetings came four years after 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the national anthem. And the discussions hit close to home for Gordon, who is a native of Kenosha.

“I do believe this is what (Kaepernick) was doing,” Gordon said. “He was trying to bring this to light, and years later here we are, fighting the same battle.”

Those issues are now at the forefront of cancellations and postponements across all four major pro sports leagues. Broncos cornerback Justin Simmons asserted the team will continue to use its platform to bring about positive change.

“It’s great that we had great conversations, but at this point, conversation is only going to take you so far — we need action, we need change,” Simmons said. “Colorado is a big sports state, and there’s no one that holds more power in all those sports than the Denver Broncos. We have a real chance here to take hold of some (change), and to use our platform to run with it.”

After the Broncos practiced as scheduled Friday morning, coach Vic Fangio said he was “impressed with the players and where they’re coming from,” following Thursday’s non-football meetings.

“We all know this was going to be an improvise-and-adjust training camp with everything going on, and (Thursday) was one of those days,” Fangio said. “We did, and we think we’re better off for it.”

Gordon addressed the team Thursday, then spoke with media Friday. He called the footage of Blake’s shooting — which has gone viral since last weekend — “disgusting” and “heartbreaking.” He said he now feels like he needs to step up his community outreach in his hometown. And he again wondered why there are those who have not grasped the seriousness of the issue of police brutality against Black citizens.

“I want people to sit back and understand, and look at it as if that was your brother, or your husband, or your whatever being shot in the back, or being shot in the middle of the street, or having his throat stepped on,” Gordon said. “Look at it from that point, and just try to educate yourself on what (Black Americans) go through.”

Gordon said the Broncos “probably would’ve sat out” of practice again Friday if a poll of players had been taken.

“(The coaches) say, ‘Practice,’ and we’ve got to go do that at this point until we can find a way to make a better stand,” Gordon said. “It’s tough right now because unlike in the basketball season (with the NBA), we’re not playing any games to boycott… There’s only so much we can do right now, until at least the season starts.”

Simmons said that conversations in Thursday’s meetings included the prospect of requesting a meeting with Gov. Jared Polis to discuss the case of Elijah McClain, a Black man who died in Aurora police custody last August. Simmons said the team is still discussing what sort of protest it wants to do during its season opener Sept. 14.

In 2017, Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall and receiver Demaryius Thomas also knelt to bring attention to police brutality, and in Week 3 of that season, 32 Denver players knelt during the anthem in Buffalo. Simmons said that if the team does decide to kneel before the Titans’ game in two weeks, he hopes the team’s support will be different this time around.

“If we decide to take a knee, I hope the Broncos (as an organization) will have their players’ backs, as that wasn’t really the case when B-Marsh and D.T. were here in 2017,” Simmons said.

Simmons was also very vocal about the specifics of the Blake shooting, and of the football fans who are critical of him for using his platform as a professional athlete to speak out against racial injustice.

Regarding Blake, who was shot seven times in the back after officers attempted to tase him, Simmons said Blake’s past actions shouldn’t be justification for the actions taken by Kenosha police. Prior to the shooting, Blake was facing charges for felony third-degree sexual assault, misdemeanor trespassing and disorderly conduct.

“I don’t know when in America it became okay to start looking up people’s past history and then for them to be (automatically) condemned, and for it to be justified why he was shot seven times in the back,” Simmons said. “That makes zero sense. We have a whole process of innocent before proven guilty… Innocent civilians are being murdered in cold blood, and (some people) are just cool with it.”