Aaron Rodgers, just say Black Lives Matter
The Packers quarterback, a progressive thinker, should add his voice to the protests
Aaron, say these three words.
Though I am always moved by the Stevie Wonder classic, I don’t want to hear you say “I love you.” The three words I want to hear you say are different and would mean so much more. I want to hear you say, “Black Lives Matter.” Contrary to what some may tell you, Black Lives Matter is positivity. It is affirmation and solidarity. It is in the spirit of equality and inclusion. It is the amalgamation of many other three-word phrases: I see you; I love you; I feel you; we are equal; I am you; etc.
In 2009, according to The Nation, you said to the Sporting News, “Hopefully the legacy I’ll leave is one of somebody who was of high character, did things the right way, cared about his teammates, was coachable and was good to the community he lived in.”
Since then, your actions have spoken as loudly as those words. Yes, you have been great on the field, but I have been more impressed by your character-defining actions off of the field. You play in Wisconsin, a state that has spawned several of the most revered conservative public servants. As a former University of California quarterback, your political opinions seem to remain more Berkeley than Green Bay, despite playing in the state that gave us Fox News darlings Gov. Scott Walker, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.
The day after a regular-season game in 2013, you joined Congolese teammate Andy Mulumba at a rally on the campus of University of Wisconsin. You spoke about how you felt after winning the Super Bowl, “We just accomplished the most amazing goal in football,” you said. “But I’m sitting here with this semi-empty feeling because I had just accomplished everything I wanted to do when I was a kid. I kind of had this moment where I said to myself, ‘Is this it? Is there more to life than this?’ And the answer was resoundingly yes.”
Back then, you were speaking about ending the use of conflict minerals by American companies and its impact in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “A device [cellphone] that I take everywhere with me. It’s my lifeline to my friends, to my Candy Crush, to my Twitter account during the offseason. This is the lifeblood of these warlords who are doing some incredible atrocities half a world away.” You went on to encourage students to make the University of Wisconsin a conflict-free school. “You can have an impact in a tangible way. Something that you touch every single day, that’s your lifeline … We can say to those tech companies and those people, we want to live in a world where our electronics do not fund rape and war.”
At a Green Bay Packers home game in 2015, a fan yelled “Muslims suck,” during a moment of silence for the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks. After the game, you used the news conference as an opportunity to say, “I must admit, though, I was very disappointed with whoever the fan was who made a comment that I thought was really inappropriate during the moment of silence. It’s that kind of prejudicial ideology that I think puts us in the position that we’re in today, as a world.”
When Walker, the Wisconsin governor, proposed a budget bill that would cut funding to health care and education, reduced salaries for many government employees, and sought to eliminate unions’ ability to collectively bargain, you joined the protest against it.
On the Wilde and Tausch radio show, you admired the social statements made by NBA stars at The ESPYS and maligned the culture of the NFL that discourages pro football players from stating strong opinions on social and political issues. You are right, the culture does discourage players from saying anything that could be viewed as controversial, but it certainly has not stopped many other football players:
Benjamin Watson … Richard Sherman … Eugene Monroe … Andrew Hawkins … Rashad Jennings … Stedman Bailey… Tavon Austin … Chris Givens … Kenny Britt … Jared Cook … Tom Brady … Michael Bennett … Matellus Bennett … Chris Kluge … Brendan Ayanbadejo … Daune Brown … Eric Reid and my favorite, Torrey Smith
Just to name a few. Oh, and Aaron Rodgers, too.
Obviously, your quote about your legacy wasn’t just lip service. Based on the actions of yours that I highlighted above, you are a man of high character, you care about your teammates, and you are good to the community.
One thing I know to be true about football players is that potential personal repercussions are not a deterrent when it comes to doing what is in the best interest of the team. In this case, the team is American society.
Currently, the expectation of athletes to take a stand on social issues falls only on black athletes, as if we are the only athletes with a responsibility for the advancement of society. I assume you agree with me when I say every person has an equal obligation to advance our society, black or white, celebrity or not, athlete or fan. So, please be the leader I believe you are, be the first white superstar athlete to accept some of the burden black athletes are currently shouldering alone. And say “Black Lives Matter.”