Derek Carr was one of the first white quarterbacks to speak out following the death of George Floyd in police custody.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and Tennessee Titans signal-caller Ryan Tannehill also were among the first to speak out against systemic racism and police brutality and call for unity.
Carr normally isn't one to make such statements, but he knows this is an important moment in history and he has a platform that can help drive change. He plans to do so in order to drive unity. The "stick to sports" Carr is a thing of the past.
"For years, we have all been taught to "just stay out of politics." (When one side is so far one way and the other side is so far the other.)," Carr told NFL media's Jim Trotter. "Not just as a white athlete, but all athletes in general. I think over the last couple of years, people have begun to break down these barriers by using their platform for what they believe is right. Something I was always taught as an athlete was to keep your head down and be you when there is a major headlining story. I use my platform to preach all over the world, which is an honor and a blessing. But recently, it started to weigh heavy on my heart that it was time to stand up and say what I have been feeling for a long time, disregarding what anyone from any standpoint had to say or think about it. I felt in my heart this was the right moment to speak up, to not care so much about politics but instead speak truth.
"I have been angered and heartbroken by any loss of life in the past, but now I feel that I am in a place where I can make a difference with my actions and not just my words. I'm working closely with teammates and higher-ups in the Las Vegas community to take actual actions and stride to make our country better. My goal is simple, and that is to unite people. Nothing bigger, nothing smaller. Unity is how we will see real change occur! As a spiritual, God-fearing man, I believe that our country is dealing with major spiritual, heart and system issues. Therefore, I firmly believe the blood Jesus shed on the cross is the answer; not fighting and anger.
"I feel the same way today as I always have. I want everyone to feel loved and welcomed. I want every life to be so precious to everyone. I want people to love their neighbors just as they love themselves. I want a genuine respect and unity for every life that lives in these United States and calls it home. I want the fighting to stop. I want people to help people in need. I want to see people stop striving for power in politics and actually do what they say they were going to do. I want to see prayer back in schools. I want to see team sports be a place where all different walks of life come together for a common goal in our communities. I want to see children raised up loving everyone and not counting them out before they actually know them. That's what I want to see."
Make no mistake about it, Carr speaking out is important, given his status as a white quarterback for a marquee NFL franchise 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman recently spoke on the importance of white quarterbacks speaking out in this moment, and how their voice is received differently by those who would brush off the fight for social and racial equality when it comes from black athletes.
“I’m impressed with the white QBs speaking up because those are voices that carry different weight than the black voices for some people,” Sherman told Albert Breer of The MMQB. “Which means the people who refuse to listen to a black athlete’s perspective will hear the same thing said from a white athlete, but receive the message much differently. So it’s awesome that more people are speaking out, because in sports, you really have a love and appreciation for your fellow man, regardless of race."
Carr's pledge to help unify comes in the wake of widespread protests following Floyd's death.
Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man died in police custody when Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes. Video captured a handcuffed Floyd telling Chauvin and the other three officers watching that he couldn't breathe and asking for him to let up. Chauvin did not and it was later announced Floyd died in police custody. Chauvin was arrested Friday and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The other three officers have not been arrested but still could face charges.
The Raiders signal-caller's pledge comes in sharp contrast to New Orleans Saints star Drew Brees. Just hours after posting a black square on Instagram in support of #BlackOutTuesday, Brees said he still wouldn't condone players kneeling in protest out of respect for the American flag, showing that he still doesn't understand why former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem in the first place.
Carr should be commended for his statements and his stance to no longer stick to sports. For too long that phrase has been used as a crutch by those who are too comfortable and too cowardly to address real issues. It's been an excuse to separate sports from the issues everyday people face. It's a stance used by those who view athletes as objects of their entertainment and not people with powerful platforms that should be used to speak truth.
Telling athletes to stick to sports is an excuse by those who are afraid to see the truth. It is used by those who want to talk about how sports unify us and brush away the ugly truths of our country. Athletes are asked to hear the insidious things said to them in the stands and on social media and turn the other cheek in the name of not ruffling any feathers.
Many athletes are done sticking to sports, as they should be. It's an admirable first step for Carr, but what comes next for all of us -- actually enacting change -- is the hard part.
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