clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Russell Wilson speaks out on George Floyd’s death, racism, and more in heartfelt press conference

New, comments
Protests Continue Over Death Of George Floyd, Killed In Police Custody In Minneapolis Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks were among several NFL teams who called off their scheduled team meetings for George Floyd’s memorial in Minneapolis.

Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who placed his knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd, who was already in handcuffs, cried out “I can’t breathe” in his dying moments. The incident, which was captured on video, resulted in immediate outrage and sparked protests not just throughout the United States, but around the world.

Chauvin’s initial third-degree murder charge has since been upgraded to second-degree murder, while the other three officers on scene have now been arrested and charged with aiding and abetting murder.

The sports world in particular — including Seahawks players past and present, as well as coach Pete Carroll — has been very vocal about not just Floyd’s death, but addressing systemic racism within the police force, police brutality, racial injustice and inequality, and much more.

Russell Wilson’s press conference on Wednesday eschewed football talk altogether, as the team’s star quarterback engaged in passionate discussion about racism and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“When you think about the idea of Black Lives Matter, they do matter,” Wilson said (via ESPN). “The reality is that, me as a black person, people are getting murdered on the street, people are getting shot down, and the understanding that it’s not like that for every other race. It’s like that in particular for the black community. I think about my stepson, I think about my daughter, I think about our new baby boy on the way, and it’s staggering to watch these things happen right in front of our faces, so I have a heavy heart right now.”

Wilson also discussed his own upbringing as a black person in America, and shared a personal encounter that occurred shortly after winning the Super Bowl.

“You understand fully — especially now just turning 31 and having two kids and a third one on the way — you really understand the significance of what that means,” Wilson said. “And the fact that my dad even had to tell me that is a problem. And going to grocery store, the assumption that somebody may accuse you of stealing or something like that is a terrifying thought.”

[...]

Wilson was reminded of that time in his youth during a 2014 encounter at a restaurant in California sometime after the Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII. He was in line for breakfast when an older white man told him, “That’s not for you.”

“And I said, ‘Huh? Excuse me?’ I thought he was joking at first,” Wilson said. “My back was kind of turned. I had just come off a Super Bowl and everything else, so if somebody is talking to me that way, you think about [a different] circumstance and how people talk to you. In that moment, I really went back to being young and not putting my hands in my pocket and that experience. That was a heavy moment for me right there. I was like, man, this is really still real, and I’m on the West Coast. This is really real right now.

“That really pained my heart. But in the midst of that, what I understood was — and [what] my dad always taught me was — to not lash back out in that moment because then it becomes something that’s hard to deal with. So I said, ‘Excuse me, sir, but I don’t appreciate you speaking to me that way.’ He just kind of walked off. But in that little glimpse, even though it didn’t turn into something, what if it did? That’s the sad part about this, what we’re talking about.”

You can view the whole press conference here.

Pete Carroll released this statement on Twitter, and in an appearance on the “Flying Coach” podcast he reflected on former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s famous protesting against police brutality and racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem.

“I think that there was a moment in time that a young man captured. He took a stand on something, figuratively took a knee, but he stood up for something he believed in — and what an extraordinary moment it was that he was willing to take,” Carroll said (via ESPN).

“... But what happened from the process is it elevated awareness from people that just took everything away from what the statement was all about, and it just got tugged and pulled and ripped apart.

“And the whole mission of what the statement was, such a beautiful ... it’s still the statement that we’re making right today. We’re not protecting our people. We’re not looking after one another. We’re not making the right choices. We’re not following the right process to bring people to justice when actions are taken. So I think it was a big sacrifice in the sense that a young man makes, but those are the courageous moments that some guys take.

“And we owe a tremendous amount to him for sure.”

Those words have been met with criticism and hypocrisy claims, given the Seahawks reportedly cancelled a visit with Kaepernick back in 2018 after he wouldn’t say whether he’d stop kneeling during the national anthem. Carroll said that while there was interest, reports of what happened that led to the cancellation of the workout were “blown up.” Kaepernick still has not played an NFL snap since the final weekend of the 2016 season against Seattle.

Of course, I cannot leave out the extraordinary backlash that New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees received for his “disrespecting the flag” remarks about players who kneel during the anthem, and the possibility that it could happen again this season. Brees has since apologized, but the damage has already been done. Richard Sherman unsurprisingly did not hold back his thoughts, while Kam Chancellor... well it’s self-explanatory.

Once again, comments are open to more political discussion than normal, but if it devolves into partisan bickering or trashing politicians — justified or not — then that’s a no-go. And if you are going to partake in any of these protests in Seattle or anywhere else in the world, please be safe.