Russell Wilson used his words more forcefully and directly on Wednesday than I’d ever seen before.
During a Zoom call with local reporters, the Seahawks quarterback opted not to talk about football and focus on the current events surrounding George Floyd’s murder at the hands of the police and the ensuing nationwide protests.
“I think racism is heavier than ever,” Wilson said. “Watching someone get murdered in the street by the people that are supposed to protect – being able to see that on Instagram or Twitter or whatever – it’s appalling. It pains my heart.”
Wilson noted how his great great grandparents were slaves. He discussed how his father used to tell him to keep his hands out of his pockets when they were out in public.
The quarterback’s late father also had to have a talk with him when he got his driver’s license at age 16. Wilson explains that he, too, will eventually have to teach his kids how to act if and when they get pulled over by the police. He notably has one stepson, a daughter and a third child, a son, on the way.
“The thought of having those conversations with my kids someday is a heavy thing,” Wilson said.
The presence of racism remains apparent in America, even for the uber famous like Wilson. He shared a story shortly after the Seahawks won their first ever Super Bowl in February of 2014. Wilson was grabbing breakfast somewhere in California when an older white gentleman told him “that’s not for you.”
Wilson thought the man was joking at first before realizing otherwise. That experience, while remarkably absurd that such obtuse beliefs still exist, pales in comparison to some of the violence that takes place at the hands of the police.
Floyd’s murder is merely the latest example, but it’s clearly the straw that broke the camel’s back given the immense response around the country.
“Not much has changed,” Wilson said. “The reality is enough is enough. … It’s pretty heavy to watch someone get murdered like that or killed. I think ultimately, it brings a lot of pain.”
Wilson’s words on Wednesday come on the heels of his statement that was released Monday morning on social media.
Several of the quarterback’s teammates have also offered public messages, and Wilson shared that the Seahawks continue to have internal conversations on the matter in their daily virtual team meetings.
Honest dialogue and a common understanding that a problem exists in this country is a huge first step in progress. But Wilson knows it must be followed by meaningful action if change is to be realized.
“We need to make a difference. We need to make sure that we’re voting for the right people,” Wilson said. “We need to make sure we’re doing the right things that allow change and also across the board in our systems and our systematic flow of how we do things has to change as well.”