Newtown honored across NFL
Sports can seem trivial after the kind of tragedy our country saw Friday in Newtown, Conn. But by Sunday, a group of professionals had to go out and do their job, which just happens to be playing football. While the show must go on for the NFL, several teams and players took steps to honor the town of Newtown and the shooting’s victims during their Sunday Night Football games.
New England, one of the team’s closest to Newtown, silenced their End Zone Militia for the night. Usually, the scoring celebration involves men dressed as Revolutionary soldiers shooting muskets into the air, but in a tactful move the guns were put away. In place of the traditional celebration, the “militia” saluted the American flag, flown at half-staff, any time the Patriots scored.
The Patriots organization started the evening with a single flare shot into the night sky for each victim before the singing of the National Anthem. The team also wore Newtown stickers on their helmets and will be donating $25,000 to help the families affected.
Victor Cruz, receiver for the New York Giants, was informed he was idolized by six-year-old Jack Pinto, one of the victims in the shooting. To pay tribute, Cruz wrote “Jack Pinto, my hero,” “This one is for you” and “R.I.P. Jack Pinto” on his shoes. The Pinto family is considering burying Jack in a Cruz jersey, and it was widely reported Sunday that Cruz said he’ll be driving to Newtown to visit the Pinto family this week and bring some of his game-worn gear.
“I don’t even know how to put it into words,” Cruz said via ESPN. “There are no words that can describe the type of feeling that you get when a kid idolizes you so much that unfortunately they want to put him in the casket with your jersey on. I can’t even explain it.”
The rest of Cruz’s team followed suit, wearing helmet decals with Sandy Hook Elementary School’s initials.
While the Giants and Pats are the teams in closest proximity to Newtown to play Sunday, location didn’t stop other NFL teams from taking steps of their own to honor victims. According to an ESPN report, a moment of silence was observed at all 14 NFL games on Sunday.
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt wrote “Newtown, CT” on one of his gloves and both shoes. He also spoke of how difficult it was to play football knowing there was something so much bigger going on during his post-game remarks, reinforcing that while he and his team were playing football, he wanted everyone to know their thoughts were with those affected and nothing was bigger than that.
In St. Louis, the two players who wear No. 26, representative of the 26 victims killed at the school, had a special moment of their own before the game. Rams running back Daryl Richardson and Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield were joined by their coaches and surrounded by children wearing jerseys at midfield, joining hands in a moment of remembrance.
In some cities, scoreboards went black in reflection of the tragedy, and players tweeted out their condolences and support. It might be just a game, but at the end of the day those small gestures of honor were one piece in comforting a grieving nation.