Ricky Jean-Francois, defensive lineman for the NFL’s Washington Redskins, is the first NFL athlete to make his opinion known about the recent spate of racial tensions in the United States — and he’s pulling no punches.
Freeman talks about how he’s spoken to a number of NFL athletes over the past few days about the same thing, but none of them have wanted to make their identities publicly known — until now.
Maybe, Freeman suggests, they don’t want to risk hurting their brand or get on the bad side of people. But Jean-Francois has no problem speaking out.
“Racism is just stupid. … The shooting and the killings need to stop,” he told Freeman.
“One of the things that needs to be done is that more people have to look at things from the other person’s perspective. How would you feel if that was your brother or sister shot to death? And put yourself in the position of the police. You shoot the police or hate the police — they are the same people who will run into a burning house to save you, or expose themselves to danger to save you.”
Jean-Francois suggested the incidents have crumbled outside perception of the United States, saying the “rest of the world is laughing at us.”
He also mused about what would happen when NFL teams reconvene for the beginning of training camp in a few days.
“We’re like every team in the league. We have people from all over the country — different regions of the country and different races. Everyone will have different opinions about all of this. There are going to be a lot of discussions.”
Jean-Francois may be the first football player to speak out, but he’s not the only athlete. Carmelo Anthony on Wednesday published an op/ed in The Guardian in which he encouraged his fellow professional athletes to use their platform and voice to take a stand. His message echoes that of Jean-Francois:
“No athlete should think: If I speak up, I’m going to lose an endorsement or a sponsorship. Because if that’s the case then you have to question the kind of people that you’re doing business with and ask yourself where their heads and morals are at.”
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