Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford wrote a passionate message in the Players’ Tribune, titled We Can’t Just Stick to Football.
The 12-year veteran expressed his love for football, but wrote “we can’t just move on from the issue of racial injustice and use sports as a distraction.”
“We can’t just stick to football,” Stafford said. “Not as a team. Not as an organization. And we shouldn’t as a country.”
“My proudest day as a Detroit Lion was the afternoon that we came together as a team and decided that we were going to cancel our practice in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting,” Stafford wrote. “We had some extremely difficult conversations. We shared stories. We debated. We cried. We were vulnerable. We were uncomfortable. We were angry. We were everything.”
Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was left partially paralyzed after a white police officer – Rusten Sheskey – shot him seven times in the back outside an apartment complex in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on August 23.
“Police brutality, white privilege, racism — it’s all real,” Stafford wrote. “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.”
Stafford also shared a story told to him by one of his teammates.
“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,” Stafford stated. “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.
“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.”
The quarterback ended his letter asking his fellow White Americans to listen.
“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,” Stafford wrote. “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. It’s time.”
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