LOCALS IN THE NFL

Seahawks’ Bobby Wagner Uses His Voice To Make Sure Message Isn’t Lost

Jun 2, 2020, 3:27 PM | Updated: Jun 3, 2020, 3:04 pm
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)...
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

SEATTLE, Wash. – Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner is required to talk to us during the regular season.

He’s always been accommodating and courteous about making himself available to reporters, and I get the idea that he would answer questions even if this wasn’t mandated by the NFL, but it is required for Wagner and every other player in the league. So at least once every week, we get to ask Wagner pretty much anything we want to know.

On Monday, he had something he wanted us to know before he started answering questions in a video teleconference with Seattle reporters.

“I feel like there’s obviously something more important that we need to address before we get to football,” he began.

He continued for 6 minutes in what was not just a heartfelt message but a specific request to the media members to not to let the violence and property damage and theft that has followed nationwide protests to obscure what initiated those protests (read the full transcript here).

“I challenge everybody on this call,” Wagner said, “to be a part of the media and report the message and what it really is: We’re tired of seeing black people getting killed.”

There are an endless number of political arguments occurring now that range on everything from racism to the nature of protest to who is responsible for precipitating the violence that is resulting in property damage. Wagner wanted to make sure that what caused the outrage is not eclipsed by all that has followed it.

“I feel like a lot of focus on the rioting, the looting, the people stealing stuff,” Wagner said, “but we’re not talking enough about what started that.”

This started with George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis, Minn., last week after a police officer refused to remove his knee from behind Floyd’s neck. Officer Derek Chauvin did not move that knee even as Floyd stated he could not breathe. Chauvin did not remove that knee as onlookers protested while recording the incident. Chauvin did not remove that knee even after Floyd lost consciousness and stopped moving.

“Like many in the community, the black community, I’m hurt,” Wagner said. “Sad. In pain. That we had to watch another video of a black man being murdered, and watching him gasp and try to get air and say to the cop, ‘I can’t breathe’ and ask, basically asking for life. That’s not something that you ever get used to.”

The recording was an unambiguous example of something black Americans have said not just for years or for decades or for generations, but for more than a century: They are treated differently by law enforcement. Specifically, they are more likely to be mistreated. To be abused. To be killed. Not only that, but even when there’s evidence of that abuse – as in this case – there is no guarantee that the officers involved will be held accountable.

“I think the black community is tired of seeing the same things going on and not seeing a change,” Wagner said. “I think we’re tired of seeing people not being held accountable for the actions that they do, understanding if we were in that position, we would be held accountable.”

It’s not just what happened in Minnesota that has people across the country marching in protest. It’s that incidents like this are still happening after centuries of complaints, and there are many people who doubt the officers responsible will be punished.

That’s why there have been gatherings and marches and protests across the country like the one Wagner attended in Seattle on Saturday.

“It was very peaceful,” Wagner said. “Everything was peaceful until there was a white person who threw something at cops and they started fighting, they started tear-gassing everyone. Then I watched a group of white individuals destroy a cop car and set it on fire, and I watched black people try to stop them from doing that, but it just wasn’t happening. Then it got to a point where I felt it was unsafe for me to be there so I left.”

But even as we sort through what happened not just Saturday in downtown Seattle but in the days that have followed, don’t forget the issue that brought all of those people together in the first place.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny O’Neil on Twitter.

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