SALT LAKE CITY — All-Pro Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner had a message he wanted to share at the start of a video conference call with reporters this week.
That message was about racial inequality, in the wake of George Floyd’s death last week and the subsequent protests around the United States. Wagner, who starred at Utah State before becoming one of the NFL’s top linebackers, spent nearly seven minutes sharing his thoughts on the subject.
Wagner doesn’t want the violence that’s crept into protests around the country to overshadow the message behind the movement.
“Report the protests — the peaceful side of the protests as well. Report the people that are doing good because there’s a lot of people that are doing good out there and there’s a lot of people who want to see the world change and don’t want to see the world like this anymore.” — Bobby Wagner
“I was there at the protests on Saturday (in Seattle), and they were very peaceful until some white people started burning up cop cars. Report the protests — the peaceful side of the protests as well,” Wagner told the media during his opening statement in a nearly hourlong conference call. “Report the people that are doing good because there’s a lot of people that are doing good out there and there’s a lot of people who want to see the world change and don’t want to see the world like this anymore.”
Wagner said in the Seahawks’ scheduled virtual meeting Monday, they didn’t talk football.
“We focused on what was going on in the world,” Wagner said. “We gave anybody the opportunity to express their feelings, express their emotions and express their anger. Because at the end of the day, life is bigger than football. There’s a lot of things that are happening that are bigger than football, so (coach Pete Carroll) provided an opportunity for guys to speak about the things they saw, the things they’re dealing with, what it’s like in the city that they’re in.
“I think it’s dope, because a lot of people don’t get to express those emotions, those feelings, and to have a platform and to have a situation where we could do that, it was great. It’s bigger than football.”
The following is the entire transcript of what Wagner said during his opening statement on racial inequality, with subheads to break up different talking points:
‘I’m hurt, sad, in pain’
“Before I wanted to speak or before we talk about football, I feel like obviously there’s something more important that we need to address before we get to football. Obviously the stuff that has gone on the past week, especially few days, weekend, has been crazy. Like many in the community, the black community, I’m hurt, 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, you know.
Support for protesters, report what the message really is
“So I want to say that I support the protesters. I understand the message. I understand why, what’s going on, what’s happening. I feel like it’s important, especially sitting here with you guys in the media, you guys play, I think, a pretty big role in what’s going on right now because you guys play a part in the narrative, and so over the years we have always talked to you about you guys being able to control the narrative and say what’s really going on. So I feel like a lot of focus on the rioting, the looting, the people stealing stuff, but we’re not talking enough about what started that.
“I think the black community is tired of seeing the same things going on and not seeing a change. 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. So I challenge everybody on this call to be a part, the media, and report the message and what it really is. We’re tired of seeing black people getting killed, you know what I’m saying?
Educate ourselves, and fix the education system
“I’m having conversations with people and somebody said, ‘Man, you know what, I’m afraid to have a child. I’m afraid to have a black child because I don’t know how they’re going to be treated in this world based off their skin color.’ That’s not a position anybody should be in. I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t even know if what I’m saying is coming out perfect. I do know that we need to educate ourselves, on both sides.
“I feel like white people need to educate themselves on what the black experience is like. We look at the media — the media is really white — but there’s some black media and I think it’s important to have a conversation with them to understand what are some of the things they’re going (through) because it’s just as important for you all to understand who you’re working with, the things they have to deal with.
“Football is a special place because we get to be around all walks of life — white, black, people from Canada, all over. To be exposed to those things. I challenge you guys to educate yourselves on what it’s like to be black in America. I definitely feel like we have to educate ourselves as well because there’s a lot of things that they’re not teaching us in schools. There’s a lot of things that we are not learning in schools, and we need to figure out why that is. Everybody is supposed to be getting the same education, but we all know that’s not the case. We need to fix that.
Reach out to understand, then use that knowledge
“What’s the point in having a camera and watching someone murder someone if they’re not going to be held accountable for their actions? I feel like this is a very interesting time right now. I feel like a lot of people are listening, especially in the white community. Maybe. I’m not sure. I think it’s important that you try to get that knowledge, and I think that it’s important that you reach out to your fellow black members in the media to try to get that knowledge because they always say, ‘Knowledge is power.’ And I believe that, but I also believe that the ability to use and apply that knowledge is where the true power comes. What’s good in having knowledge if you ain’t going to use it. So use the knowledge. See how you can help, and spread the message.
Change the world, make it better
“I was there at the protests on Saturday, and they were very peaceful until some white people started burning up cop cars. Report the protests — the peaceful side of the protests as well. Report the people that are doing good because there’s a lot of people that are doing good out there and there’s a lot of people who want to see the world change and don’t want to see the world like this anymore. We want to feel good to have our kids in this world, and it has to mean something to you guys. I feel like it don’t really hit home until it happens to you.
“I can’t see everybody on this Zoom call, but I would go out on a limb and say y’all rock with me. I’m pretty sure everybody on this call rocks with me, so imagine if I was that person, having the knee to their neck, how would you feel? It don’t need to happen to someone close to you for you to feel that way. I just urge everybody to educate themselves. I urge everybody to figure out what we can do to make this better. I don’t have all the answers.
A need for strong leadership
“I’m hurting and pissed off, like everybody else. I’m tired like everybody else. I want to see something different, but it’s going to take leadership. We don’t have that leadership right now. We have somebody in the office that is calling black protesters thugs and white protesters good people, and that’s not OK. As white people, y’all need to check that. That’s on y’all to check that. We can only check it so much. It’s got to mean something to you. Yeah, man. I think that’s kind of what I had on my heart. Hopefully that came out how I wanted it to come out, and we can talk about football.”