Star athletes speaking out on major social issues hasn’t been a given in this country. Many have stayed silent on issues that could be branded “political,” lest they risk alienating a portion of their fan base.
With everything that has happened in America in the past few weeks, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes felt compelled to add his voice to the player-organized Black Lives Matter video that recently went viral and earned verbal concessions from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
And on Wednesday, the 24-year-old Mahomes — the reigning Super Bowl MVP and one of the NFL’s biggest and brightest stars — told reporters on a video call the reason he spoke up and joined the cause following the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.
“It was a cumulation of seeing all this happen and wanting it to stop and wanting us to find a better way of preventing these instances that happen,” Mahomes said. “It’s not that one of [those deaths] was more significant than the other; it was just all of it happening and me feeling like, ‘Enough is enough, we’ve got to do something about this.’
“I was was blessed to have this platform. Why not use it?”
Mahomes said he did so knowing he might receive backlash from some fans who prefer athletes “stick to sports.”
“I know I have this platform, I know not everyone will agree with it,” Mahomes said. “But I’m going to do my best to make this world a better place and this is the right moment to do it.”
Mahomes said the graphic video of Floyd’s death, in particular, bothered him in the days afterward and contributed to his decision to release a statement and participate in the video message to the NFL.
“I can’t watch the entire George Floyd video through and through,” Mahomes said. “I’ve watched it in parts, but it hurts me too much — to my soul — to see him and feel like I can’t do anything to help the horrible situation that happened where George Floyd got murdered. To me, it just affected me knowing I have people in my family who have been in and out of jail and could have been put in that situation, and that's where it took me. That could have been one of my family members, that could have been someone I cared about.”
The son of a white mother and a black father, Mahomes grew up in Whitehouse, Texas. He said while he was never put in a situation where he wasn’t given the same privileges as others, he has empathy for those that experience inequality.
“As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned about it,” Mahomes said. “Through having the black side of my family, I’ve seen how they feel about it ... and I’ve also talked to people that are on my mom’s side of the family, and I just feel like I have a great perspective for how people feel, and how the black community doesn’t feel like they get the same rights in some situations.”
“Our social responsibility, I think it goes far beyond the football field,” Mathieu said, referring to himself and the other NFL stars who appeared in it.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said he was proud of both players for participating, adding that both men, arguably the most respected and influential voices in the locker room, are also working to put together a voter registration program.
“I’m so happy, I’m so fired up about our younger generation, man,” Reid said. “We have this great country and these kids know how great this country is and all they want to do is make it better … We’re sitting here with this push on Black Lives Matter, and absolutely they matter, man. I think it’s a beautiful thing. I’m in complete support of them.”
Mahomes said the voter registration idea came from talking to teammates and people in the organization, and that he and Mathieu have a meeting set up for next week that will include the team’s leaders in hopes to push the issue forward. Players have also talked about funding social justice programs and initiatives.
When asked directly if he plans on kneeling when the season begins, Mahomes instead chose to discuss the work ahead to make America a better place.
“It's not about who kneels and who doesn't kneel,” Mahomes said. “It’s about having the right to peacefully protest and recognize social injustices are happening, and that racial inequality does happen every single day. I just want the community to be somewhere where everybody — including black people — feel like they can go into the community and be safe. And whatever actions we can take to do that, it’s all about doing that as quickly as possible.”
Mahomes also noted the importance of not being distracted by the hot-button issue of kneeling when asked about New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who ignited a fury last week when he conflated kneeling during the anthem with disrespecting the flag.
“I’ve known Drew for a pretty long time, just being from Texas, and I know that he is a good person and he has a good heart,” Mahomes said. “And obviously, his statement missed the point and missed what was going on in the world today and took away attention from the movement that was going on and the peaceful protesting that was going on.
“But I believe, with his actions moving forward, you will see the true person he is and how much he cares about his community and the people he’s around. Time will tell, but every interaction I’ve had with him, he’s always shown me the utmost respect and I believe his actions will show that as we continue to move forward.”
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