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Words and actions will always be more effective than the combination of “thoughts and prayers.”
That was made very clear over the last 48 hours as this country is once again reeling from the damages of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio that left at least 29 people dead, and even more injured, on the same weekend that Champ Bailey and Ed Reed highlighted how gun violence and racism are America’s biggest issues during their Hall of Fame appearances.
Reed took the field at the Hall of Fame game wearing a t-shirt with the faces of black victims that died from police brutality or gun violence. It’s impossible to ignore the images of Trayvon Martin, Alton Sterling, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Sean Bell, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray on the shirt of one of the most beloved and respected football players of all time.
Bailey followed that up by closing his speech with a message for all to internalize.
So on behalf of all the black men that I’ve mentioned tonight, and many of you are out there, you’ve had most of the same experiences I’ve had in my lifetime, we say this to our white friends: When we tell you about our fears, please listen. When we tell you we’re afraid for our kids, please listen. When we tell you there are many challenges we face because of the color of our skin, please listen. And please do not get caught up in how the message is delivered.
“Yes, most of us who are black athletes are black men first. Understand this, the things that make us great on the field — our size and our aggression — are the same things that can get us killed off the field. I believe if we start listening, there’s no telling the progress we can make. All of us are dads, sons, brothers, your friends. We all understand that if we can’t get our friends to listen, then no one will. And to my black brothers, if you do not have anything positive to say about our social challenges, please keep your mouths shut.”
It was reminiscent of last year’s ceremony when Randy Moss sported a tie during the ceremony that included the names of Rice, Martin, Garner, Gray, Bland, Sterling, Greg Gunn, Akai Gurley, Paul O’Neal, Walter Scott, Akiel Denkins, Michael Brown, and Brandon Glenn.
“We all have kids,” Moss said. “We’ve watched Spiderman before. Uncle Ben told Peter Parker, ‘With great powers, comes great responsibility.’ So, you asked me about my tie. We all know what’s going on. You see the names on my tie. Being able to use a big platform like this here at the Hall of Fame … What I wanted to be able to express with my tie is to let these families know that they’re not alone. I’m not here voicing; but by these names on my tie, at a big platform — it’s the Pro Football Hall of Fame — there’s a lot of stuff going on in our country. I just wanted to let these family members know that they’re not alone.”
In the past week, at least 32 lives have been taken due to mass shootings in this country. And at the core of all those acts of terrorism was hatred and the inabilities of our government to institute safer guns laws.
This past weekend politicians in power were tweeting solemn messages while black football players were doing the work.
Never forget who the true patriots are.