SANTA CLARA -- Defensive lineman Arik Armstead took part in his first full practice after missing the first week of 49ers training camp with back tightness.
When he met with the local media for a video conference call afterward, he had something to say before he entertained questions about football.
Armstead said he plans to address topics of social injustice and issues of concern in America regularly throughout the season.
“Before my media obligations, I want to shed some light on some things that are important to me,” he said, “and I think we should all educate ourselves and think a little more about.”
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He added, “My responsibility and my duty as a citizen is to continue to be a better part of society, add value to society and the people around me. And playing in the NFL gives me a platform where people look up to me and care about what I say.”
Armstead on Friday advocated against hate crimes. Personal attacks motivated by bias or prejudice reached a 16-year high in 2018, the FBI announced last year.
“With COVID, we’ve seen an increase in hate crimes against Asian-Americans,” Armstead said. “With immigration, we saw a rise in hate crime against Latinos in our country. I think we have to think about why these things are happening, what biases and stereotypes are we continuing to allow to be a part of our society?
“How can we stop spreading hate and start spreading love in a society where everything is divided, black and white; rich and poor; gay, straight; immigrant, citizen? How can we knock down those walls instead of dividing our people and bring people closer together?”
Armstead, 26, a Sacramento native, has made an impact in the community with the Armstead Academic Project, a foundation created to supply underserved students with a learning environment and resources that allows them to thrive and be successful. Armstead signed a five-year, $85 milion contract to remain with the 49ers in the offseason. He enters his sixth year in the NFL.
Armstead’s message on Friday was a simple challenge to everyone to do their part in knocking down walls of division between groups of people.
“I think the way you do that is spreading love and not hate,” he said. “So I challenge all of us to continue to spread love and understanding to people who don’t look like us -- maybe have a different language than us. So that’s what I wanted to shed light on today.”