Matthew Stafford, quarterback of the Detroit Lions, wrote the piece about racism and Black Lives Matter that I wish that I’d written. He’s saying, “It’s time for us to stop talking, start listening, and start empathizing.”
We Can’t Just Stick to Football
As most everyone knows, I haven’t exactly embraced social media over the years. It’s just not me. But I feel like it’s right to take the time to say what’s on my heart as we begin this new season together as a team. And what’s on my heart is that we all need to come together as a country and admit what we know is real. Deep down inside, no matter what political party we support, or what we do for a living, we know what’s real.
Police brutality, white privilege, racism — it’s all real.
It’s time we stop pretending, or defending, or just closing our eyes to what’s right in front of us. We have to listen, and we have to keep having these hard conversations.
And it’s not like this is just our history. This is right now.
These are not political problems. These are human problems. It should not be seen as a political statement to discuss this stuff honestly.
Later, he shares what he heard from a Black teammate.
But the one story that stuck with me so much was when Trey Flowers talked about how he copes with the anxiety of dealing with the police. Trey was explaining that if he were to ever get pulled over in his car — something that I have experienced many times without even thinking twice about it — he would roll down his window, put both hands on the wheel, and ask the officer if he would like him to step out of the car so he can handcuff him.
Just so that he is not seen as a threat.
Just so the officer can’t say, “Oh, he was reaching here, he was reaching there.…”
Just so he makes it back home.
If you’re a white person, all I’m asking you to do is to really think _about that. Imagine _that being your first instinct when you see police lights in your rearview mirror.
No one in America should have to feel this way.
Listen, I’m not some perfect person. I’m not trying to lecture anybody. I’ve made a million mistakes. I grew up in Highland Park, Texas, which is probably one of the most privileged places in the country. It’s a place that I still love very much, but it’s a bubble. That’s just a fact. I was not exposed to a lot of diversity or different ideas growing up. I was not educated on these issues, and I probably said a bunch of stupid things when I was young that I regret. But a big part of life is about looking inside yourself and trying to evolve as a person.
And when you hear your teammates telling these stories — and getting so emotional that they’re breaking down crying — you can’t just sit there and be silent.
And Matthew Stafford’s conclusion.
And if you grew up the way I did, and you still happen to live in one of those bubbles where you don’t have to worry about these things, maybe you’re tired of hearing about all this. Maybe you want to pretend it doesn’t exist, because you don’t see it with your own eyes. Maybe you just want us to “shut up and play football.”
That’s your right. I probably can’t change your mind.
All I can ask you to do, as we continue through this NFL season, is to close your eyes and really put yourself in other people’s shoes. Try for a minute to put all the social media and the politics and the arguing aside, and look within yourself.
Ask yourself hard questions.
But more than anything, listen.