Monday begins a new week following a weekend filled with civil unrest across the United States.
In a moment filled with pain, anger, confusion and overflowing frustration, one NFL player articulated how we might attempt to move toward a better future together. Demario Davis, a linebacker for the New Orleans Saints and a prominent member of the Players Coalition, spoke about the ongoing, nationwide protests related to the death of George Floyd during a Monday appearance on NFL NOW.
In Davis’ opinion, progress begins with honoring Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air as a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck last week. His death has sparked protests across the country.
“We can’t bring justice to these families,” Davis said. “Justice would be bringing those people back and we can’t bring them back. The first thing we can do is try to honor those families. The way we honor those families specifically the Floyd family is making sure that all four of those officers are not just charged and arrested but convicted. Three of the officers haven’t been arrested but 1,600 people have been arrested since the protests began. That’s a problem and that continues to sweep the issue that exists under the rug.
“Then we have to change the way policing is done in our country. We know how to respond to crisis, we know how to respond to tragedies. Just think back to 9/11. 9/11 changed the way that we do airports. You’ll never walk into an airport and it’ll be the same. It was changed as a form of protection. We would never allow that situation to happen again in our country and that’s what we need to do around policing. We need to change the way that that we police so we won’t have these incidents come up again. Because every time it does it tears at the threads of America. It tears us apart.”
The protests that have unfolded in many major American cities and beyond the nation’s borders focus on police brutality and its effect on innocent civilians, specifically minorities who have lost their lives at the hands of officers’ excessive use of force. Davis reiterated the importance of changing the hiring processes in police departments across the country in an effort to prevent empowerement of so-called “bad apples.”
“We can’t allow bad apples in this specific situation in this specific occupation,” Davis explained. “It would be the same if we were to say it’s OK to have a few bad apples as pilots. Most of our pilots do well, but a few crash planes, we can’t have that. Some occupations can’t afford to have a few bad apples and police officers is one of them.”
The Players Coalition, which put out a statement on Floyd this weekend, was established at a time when NFL players’ protesting of police brutality was a hot-button issue beyond the playing field of an NFL stadium. While problems continue to exist on a larger scale, the group has worked at a micro level, sending groups of players on social justice reform trips focused on learning more about the landscape to better focus their efforts, for example. It hasn’t just been a trending topic that dissipated with time in NFL locker rooms, but the latest instance of an unarmed black man losing his life at the hands of police officers has again brought the larger issue to the forefront of the American consciousness.
“I don’t know why this one was the one that kind of broke the camel’s back,” Davis said. “This isn’t a new conversation, especially amongst the black community in the locker room and everyone. The one thing I want to say about NFL locker rooms — they’re very diverse and everybody has a temperature to what’s going on because of that diversity. Because of that diversity everybody generally understands what’s going on to try to work collaboratively to find solutions to what’s going on. And we need that to be reflected in the rest of the world and that’s what’s happening now.
“For whatever reason everybody is getting involved in this conversation saying, ‘Hey, we have to do something.’ And that’s what’s been needed. That’s what’s been needed in the past, and that’s why I’m hopeful in this time because it’s different because everybody is coming to the forefront and saying we’re going to link our arms with the black community. They’ve been crying for too long, now we need change. And that’s what we’ve been asking in every other situation that’s came before.”
For his own part, Davis is attempting to make an effort that will both spread a message of unity with the hopes of positive progress, while also helping protect those protesting for change during what is still an ongoing pandemic. He’s producing masks with the phrases Man of God or Woman of God on them with the goal of directing all proceeds to the families of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed while jogging in a residential neighborhood in Georgia.
“It’s one thing for words or posts to be made, but what are your actions. I want to do what little bit I can,” Davis explained. “I know alongside the Coalition we’re going to be finding ways to change policy laws around policing in our country, but individually what can I do. And I wanted to bring that Man of God thing theme back because it helped me raise a lot of funds for hospitals and a lot of people are out protesting right now and we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. So I wanted to make Man of God, Woman of God masks, and I’ll do the masks and put those and all of the proceeds will go to the Arbery family and the Floyd family.
“It’s nothing that we can do like I said to bring them justice, but the best we can do is try to honor them the best we can. That’s one way that I wanted to do my part and help keep people safe because if you want to be out protesting you still need to be safe and also in a way that can aid the family in whatever their needs are during this time.”