Falcons coach Dan Quinn takes part in protest march to Governor’s Mansion

Falcons coach Dan Quinn and wife, Stacey (to his right), taking part in a protest march in Buckhead on Sunday, June 7, 2020. (By D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com)

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Falcons coach Dan Quinn and wife, Stacey (to his right), taking part in a protest march in Buckhead on Sunday, June 7, 2020. (By D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com)

Falcons coach Dan Quinn and his wife, Stacey, participated in a protest march to the Governor’s Mansion in Buckhead on Sunday.

Assistant coaches Bernie Parmalee and Doug Mallory and several members from the organization were with Quinn at the start of the march.

General manager Thomas Dimitroff, defensive tackle Tyeler Davison, linebacker LaRoy Reynolds, safety Ricardo Allen and rookie linebacker Mykal Walker joined the march.

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Atlanta protests

“Yeah, the locker room is a special place,” Quinn told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “But I also recognize that not everybody has the same experience when they leave the locker room, and I hate that. That’s not OK.”

Dimitrofff offered his support to the protest, too.

“I’ve always believed we are all created equal and should be treated as such, but have passively held back my voice,” Dimitroff said. “I’ve decided it’s time for me to step up and take action.“

The “Buckhead4BlackLives” march was organized by former students from Buckhead  independent schools. “Our mission is to bring awareness to the social issues plaguing the Black Community,” the group’s mission statement reads. “In light of the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery (in Brunswick), Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, we have organized a peaceful demonstration to educate the Buckhead community on the systemic racism that Black Americans continue to experience.”

Quinn, who instituted a social-justice committee within the team in the wake of the Colin Kaepernick protests in 2016, was eager to march.

“I wish the world could be like (the Falcons’ diverse locker room), but it’s not,” Quinn said. “So, let’s change it.”

Quinn also said he is proud of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s changed stance on players kneeling in protest of police brutality and social justice.

“Leadership and courage go hand-in-hand,” Quinn said. “So, I know our job as leaders is to help the people that we are with do it better. Let’s be accountable to that. That’s what moments like today are about. Glad to be here.”

Around 3:30 p.m., about 3,000 people started marching along West Paces Ferry Road to the Governor’s Mansion.

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Falcons coach Dan Quinn talking with one of the organizers of the Buckhead protest, University of Virginia linebacker Nicholas Jackson. (By D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com).

Falcons coach Dan Quinn talking with one of the organizers of the Buckhead protest, University of Virginia linebacker Nicholas Jackson. (By D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com).

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Falcons coach Dan Quinn talking with one of the organizers of the Buckhead protest, University of Virginia linebacker Nicholas Jackson. (By D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com).

Nicholas Jackson, a sophomore linebacker at the University of Virginia and a Lovett School graduate, was one of the organizers, along with Ryan Mutombo, the son of former NBA star and Atlanta Hawk Dikembe Mutombo.

“There are a lot of people supporting our movement and supporting our cause,” Jackson said. “Me and a group of people started a week ago just planning it out. We wanted it just to be Lovett, but as we saw more and more people wanting to get involved, we had to open it up. We wanted to make this something that was really powerful in our community and with the people we love.”

Mutombo, who’s 7-foot, towered over the crowd, along with his 7-2 father, who was on hand.

“We are just hoping for a peaceful protest,” the young Mutombo said. “We are hoping that this march will change the hearts of a lot of people in the Buckhead community and bring light to the Black Lives Matter movement.

“We all know each other because we went to the same school. We were all in school at the same time. We started networking. Made an Instagram account, and we promoted it on our personal pages. Started a GroupMe, and the response has been just amazing.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Falcons have run a virtual offseason program. Quinn returned to his office Friday for the first time since March 13.

The team has two more weeks of the program before breaking for the rest of the offseason, with the hope of starting training camp on time at the end of July. Quinn plans to bring the rookies in a week earlier.

“They’ll come in earlier than the rest with the guidelines that we are allowed,” Quinn said. “Any moments that we can get them and see them face-to-face, we are going to do that. But for right now, that is so far down the road, I want to just enjoy the last couple of weeks of this offseason program the best we can.”

Quinn has embraced teaching in a virtual setting.

“I’m proud of the work the guys have done,” Quinn said. “It’s been remarkable in a lot of ways. This whole offseason has been filled with a lot of pain and some difficulty. There is also a chance for some growth. That’s the way we looked at it from the start and this has added to that.

“The first part was learning, and (over) the last 10 days our connection has gotten even stronger. When some tough and painful moments happen, what do you have opportunity for? Growth.”

Quinn looks forward to the day when the team runs back onto the field in Flowery Branch.

“I do think about it a lot,” Quinn said. “Just small little milestones like getting back into the office. Now … we are moving. That’s exciting even though the players are not there yet, getting some access together as coaches and working on some projects. That’s a big deal.

“That’s hope. The mayor (Keisha Lance Bottoms) said last week, two of the things, hope and faith, getting back from COVID-19 and a little bit together, that’s some hope in that space, too.”

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