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As activism sweeps sports, Marvin Lewis wants Bengals to focus on football

CINCINNATI -- Sometime Thursday when Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis meets with his entire team as it reports for training camp, he and his staff will touch on the events that have dominated so many of the headlines around the country these past two months.

Baton Rouge, Orlando, Minnesota, Dallas -- each place has been the unwitting setting in a series of tragedies that have had the world talking.

Even the sports world -- one where modern-day professional athletes tend to keep outward comments geared toward the individual games they play -- has recently become a more socially active space. At the ESPYS earlier this month, four NBA superstars made an emotional plea for other athletes to stand up and promote social change. Teams in the WNBA have heeded the call, staging media blackouts after recent games. In postgame interviews, they rejected discussing the games and instead wanted to highlight concerns revolving around social issues and current events.

At his youth camp a couple weeks ago, Bengals receiver A.J. Green said it was important for athletes to start using their platforms to show kids like his soon-to-be-born son, Easton Ace Green, that they can one day change the world for the better.

But if Lewis has his way, that's probably the last time you'll hear from Green, or any Bengals player for that matter, as it pertains to the issue of social activism.

"We're a football team. And we have to come together as a football team, and that's going to be very important for us," Lewis said at the Bengals' pre-training camp media luncheon earlier this week. "We're going to talk quite a bit about where we are as a country, and as a society and so forth. We have to understand that. That's a key element of what football is, what makes it so special -- a football team -- that it's not about color. It's about how we are.

"We're a family, and we have to always be conscious of that in everything we do -- whether it's how I dress, how I come to work -- all of the standards that we have. And that's why we move away from social media now, and now it's time to focus on football. It's not time to ... if you want to tweet, go somewhere else. It's now time to do football. And that's not helping us win football games. And so now we have to focus on what helps us win football games."

On the same day Lewis answered a question regarding his stance on his own players' social activism, outspoken Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman told The Undefeated he felt the NFL should be more active when it comes to issues of violence and race in this country, "but I don't think they will because it doesn't affect their bottom line. It doesn't affect them, and a lot of the owners haven't come from a background where they would have to deal with these types of circumstances. So it's just news to them."

Sherman went on to say he felt that as players in a majority African-American league, he would imagine other players would be compelled to speak up.

For now, though, with their coach focused on winning his franchise's first playoff game in more than 25 years, it doesn't appear any Bengals will be joining Sherman.