SALT LAKE CITY — San Francisco 49ers linebacker Fred Warner called for individuals to look inwardly and seek to become a better person in the community when given the chance Friday to add his voice about the battle for racial equality in the United States.
The former BYU standout joined NFL Network reporters Steve Wyche and AJ Acosta and White House correspondent April Ryan during a segment on the network. Racial relations and the issues surrounding them drove the discussion in the wake of protests in recent weeks following the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.
Wyche asked Warner how the movement can stay in the limelight, even when teams return to work and the focus may be drawn away to more football-centric issues. Teams around the NFL will start training camps next month, barring any delays related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“The key is to try and find a solution where we can keep the conversation going,” Warner said. “Whatever that means, or however we do that, using our platform is very important at this time because we have a voice that a lot of people don’t have to reach a lot of different minds.”
Warner, who’s headed into his third NFL season, said the focus to making meaningful change needs to start internally.
“At the end of the day, the change needs to start inward. I look at myself — how can I be a better person out in the community and in society where I can treat others with the same love and compassion as I do with my own family.” — Fred Warner
“At the end of the day, the change needs to start inward. I look at myself — how can I be a better person out in the community and in society where I can treat others with the same love and compassion as I do with my own family,” he said.
“You’ve got to look inward, you’ve got to speak to your children. The youth are extremely powerful in creating real progress. Obviously we have a long way to go from where we need to be as a country.”
On Thursday, the NFL pledged to commit $250 million over 10 years to a fund to combat systemic racism and support the battle against racial injustices faced by African Americans.
“In terms of what we’re going to do as a team, I’m sure we’ll come up with something. I think that’s leaguewide with how we’ll continue to make this relevant and keep the conversation going to where we can create real change,” Warner said.
During another portion of the segment, Wyche asked Warner what NASCAR’s decision to ban Confederate flags at races says to him.
“Just how important this issue is, and how they’re behind it 100%. That’s huge. That’s a very big step,” Warner said.
The decision was expected to receive backlash among fans, and one racer on the truck series, Ray Ciccarelli, said he will quit at the end of the 2020 season. Bubba Wallace, the lone African American racer in NASCAR’s premier Cup series, told NPR on Friday, “It’s been a long time coming for sure.”
“Obviously, I don’t know a lot about NASCAR. You mentioned how it is a very big Southern sport,” Warner added. “But the fact that they were able to take that leap means that we are creating real change, and we’re starting to do things regardless of the backlash that you’re going to get because, at the end of the day, these changes should be made with zero hesitation.
“But the fact that there are people who still do believe the things that they do and their hearts aren’t as open as others, these conversations needed to be had. Regardless if they’re tough or not, it needs to happen.”