As Colin Kaepernick’s exile from the NFL continues following his protest against racial injustice last season, members of this year’s Hall of Fame class used their induction ceremony to address the racial divide in America.
The former Seattle Seahawks safety Kenny Easley stated the case starkly in his speech on Saturday night. “Please allow me this opportunity and this moment for a very serious message for which I feel very strongly about,” said Easley, who was NFL defensive player of the year in 1985. “Black lives do matter, and all lives matter, too. But the carnage affecting young black men today from random violence to police shootings across this nation has to stop.
“We’ve got to stand up as a country, as black Americans and fight the good fight to protect our youth and our American constitutional right not to die while driving or walking the streets black in America. It has to stop, and we can do it, and the lessons we learn in sports can help.”
The former San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson used the example of his great-great-great grandfather, George, who came to America as a slave, to appeal to unity in the US.
“On America’s team, let’s not choose to be against one another. Let’s choose to be for one another,” he said. “My great-great-great grandfather had no choice. We have one. I pray we dedicate ourselves to be the best team we can be, working and living together, representing the highest ideals of mankind, leading the way for all nations to follow.”
Tomlinson, who runs a foundation set up to promote education and cultural awareness, received several standing ovations during his speech. “One of the most eloquent orators of all time said it best in his farewell address,” he said. “Paraphrasing and humbly building upon what President Obama said, we all have to try harder, show up, dive in and stay at it. I am asking you to believe in your ability to bring about change. To hold fast in the idea whispered by slaves. ‘Yes, we can.’”