Robert Quinn isn't sure if he'll demonstrate during the national anthem in 2020. He raised a fist in the air during the playing of the "Star Spangled Banner" with the Los Angeles Rams and Miami Dolphins.
But four years after Colin Kaepernick first knelt to protest police brutality and racial inequality, Quinn struggles to understand why it took so long to get to this point.
"I don't know why now the severity has changed so much. There's been multiple lives lost," Quinn said. "And from, I don't know when, I guess when Kaepernick first started or when it first started (four years ago) and we're still protesting and arguing about the same thing, you know? I look at myself in the mirror every day and I see people like me being harassed for absolutely no reason. So the simple fact that now for whatever reason the message is trying to be, I guess, more pushed.
"To me, it's very frustrating because there has been so many lives lost through the years that people have just swept under the rug."
George Floyd, tragically, was one of those lives lost to police brutality. So was Breonna Taylor. And Botham Jean. And Stephon Clark. And Philando Castille. And Alteria Woods. And a sickening number of others while the discussion of Kaepernick's protest of police brutality and racial injustice was hijacked into a debate about patriotism, the flag, the national anthem and the military.
"It's the same message from years past that we're saying today: We're being killed for senseless reasons," Quinn said. "We're not protesting. We're trying to make awareness that we're being murdered (by) people that are supposed to be protecting (us) and basically getting away with it."
The NFL, finally, seems ready to confront the inequality its black majority of players live with. But Kaepernick is still out of a job and was not mentioned by commissioner Roger Goodell in the video he put out last week.
Quinn, on Thursday, addressed Kaepernick's tacit banishment from the NFL.
"I mean, the fact that when Kaepernick lost his job and people said he was disrespecting the flag and completely ignored the message of police brutality and people being mistreated, and the fact that, again, we're here today having the same discussion, now saying, ‘Should he have lost his job' - shouldn't that be just a slap in the face?" Quinn said. "Were people just purposely ignoring it or don't want to accept it or just realized it's not affecting them so they don't really care? You know what I mean?"
Players are going to demonstrate on gamedays in 2020. It might be kneeling during the anthem, or raising a fist. It might be in another way.
But when those players - like Bears safety Jordan Lucas - do, we in the media cannot simply write and talk about who's doing what. We need to talk about why players are demonstrating - to raise awareness of continued police brutality and racial injustice in this country.
And also: Talking about the problem is one thing; acting on it is another.
"The smaller conversations aren't going to fix (things)," Quinn said. "That keeps things alive, and with those conversations going, hopefully it grows from there. But it's not going to fix it overnight. And it's not just the guys on the Zoom call.
"It's everyone in America looking themselves in the mirror."
Bears Robert Quinn wonders why it took so long to confront police brutality originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago