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‘We need to empower the people in the neighborhoods’

Former Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed says tension and problems with police are not new

I called future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed to discuss issues of race and violence.

Reed grew up in Louisiana, 45 minutes from Baton Rouge, where Alton Sterling was killed by police and officers Montrell Jackson, Brad Garafola and Matthew Gerald were killed in an ambush attack. Reed played 11 years for the Baltimore Ravens and is now an assistant defensive backs coach for the Buffalo Bills. Here are some of his thoughts.

Given the fact that you are from Louisiana, what do you know about how things are in Louisiana?

It’s been a rough few weeks for Louisiana, but this stuff is not new to Louisiana. I just talked to a friend from down there who is related to Alton Sterling. And we all know this tension [with the police] is not new.

Did you have run-ins with Louisiana police when you were young?

Yeah. I was in high school, with a teammate, coming out of a neighborhood and they pulled me over. They put me on the car, like Ricky from Boyz N the Hood.

What about the police being ambushed and killed, how does that make you feel?

I never want to see any person die, regardless of their occupation. When police or civilians are killed, you have to look at the whole situation. What’s going on? What’s surrounding us? What’s been surrounding us? That stuff makes a difference.

What about Baltimore and the Freddie Gray situation?

Something happened. Somebody did something wrong. Justice has to be served somewhere, somehow. There are different laws for some people.

I have worked in Baltimore, so I know it’s tough when you don’t have the resources and you are given the short end of the stick. And when something happens with a regular person, the city is quick to lock them up for a long time, but it feels like the laws aren’t the same for everyone. Something ain’t right.

What do you think athletes should be doing to help?

We have a responsibility, but our communities have to help. We need to empower the people in the neighborhoods. Progress will come when they can take charge of their neighborhood. But they have to have a voice. It is not something that will happen overnight.

We all seem to think that players have a responsibility to speak out about racial issues and police violence. Do you think the leagues and owners have the same responsibility?

Most definitely.

Are you optimistic about the future of race relations in this country?

Hate will always be here. There are people teaching hate, not just in the backwoods. There are people teaching hate with followers on social media.

What about the state of politics in this country?

I don’t know, man. We have all these great leaders, yet we have so many issues.

Yes, things need to change. We are a new people. We need to figure out what works for us. We need to look at these things from a totally different view.

Domonique Foxworth is a writer at The Undefeated. He is a recovering pro athlete and superficial intellectual.