Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan launched a GoFundMe campaign on Friday designed to help “improve the community for people of color” in Atlanta, and kicked it off with a $500,000 donation himself.
The goal, matching his number on the field, is set at $2 million.
“Last week I made a commitment to listening and learning, and one of the messages that hit home for me was the difference between reacting to a situation and responding to a situation,” Ryan said in a statement on Twitter. “For far too long, I have reacted to social injustice with empathy and silent support but failed to follow through with active support. I feel the time has come to RESPOND. For ALL of us to respond.
“I see my city hurting, which is why I'm starting a fundraiser to help improve conditions for people of color in the city of Atlanta … Over the next few weeks, months, I'm going to listen to the needs of the black community and get guidance on how I can be most impactful.”
Ryan is just the latest in the NFL world to speak out after George Floyd’s death in police custody last month and video of his arrest — which showed a Minneapolis police officer with his knee in the back of Floyd’s neck for more than seven minutes while he yelled out, “I can’t breathe” — went viral. All four officers involved in his arrest have since been arrested.
“[That video] was really difficult to watch,” Ryan said, via ESPN. “Basically it was like, ‘This can't happen anymore. That isn't acceptable. This has to stop.’ That's where my head was at.”
His death has sparked nonstop, widespread protests and riots in cities across the country, including Atlanta.
Ryan, who is preparing to enter his 13th season with the Falcons this fall, said that a big source of his inspiration for speaking out and getting active has come from listening to Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who he said addressed the team in a virtual meeting earlier this week.
“We're at a point where it's no longer good enough to silently or quietly tell your teammates, ‘I've got your back.’ That hasn't worked. It hasn't changed anything,” Ryan said, via ESPN. “I think that time has come. It's time for people to not be silent on issues. I can't stay silent on it anymore. I don't know the right things to say. I can't put it into words. But I want to let people know that I'm supporting. And I'm going to try and educate and listen the best I can to people who know this situation better than myself, and to try and be empathetic and follow through to make an impact.
“I think the inspiration comes from really sitting in the virtual team meeting on Monday and hearing mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speak about providing hope. And just kind of following these situations more and getting to a point where silence or lack of follow-through on my end, it's just not good enough anymore. I think a lot of people — white people — don't know the right things to say or how to say them, and I'm included in that. But I feel like with the platform that I have, this is my way to speak up and say, ‘I want to help and I'm here to listen. I'm with you in trying to make things better.’”
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