“The city of Minneapolis taught me about love. I was baptized at New Beginnings Baptist Tabernacle Church, learned to catch a football at Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park, and instilled with values by a loving family and a supportive community,” Fitzgerald began. “For as long as I have known it, Minneapolis has been a city of peace, family and contentment.
“But not right now.
“The events of the last several days have turned Minneapolis, and our nation, upside down. Injustice, death, destruction, pain, violence, protests, and riots have made it clear — we as a nation are not OK. We are not healthy. The violent death of George Floyd in police custody is yet another example of a systemic problem we have yet to solve. A cancer we are failing to cut out. People and communities are suffering, lives are being lost and futures are being destroyed.
“Growing up, I never personally experienced harassment from the police, but I knew there were issues and I saw situations where people of color were not given the same benefit of the doubt and the same respect that was afforded to others.
“When will this terrible cycle end? When will love and respect for our fellow man replace hatred and injustice? When will healing come?”
The 17-year NFL veteran has produced all-time numbers that will usher him into Canton whenever he decides to retire, but the former Art Rooney Award and NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year recipient’s character carries the utmost weight and respect among those in the NFL world and beyond. Thus, his words ring powerful and true.
Fitzgerald paints the portrait of a Minneapolis that he regarded as a “beautiful city full of life and diversity,” but has now become most associated with Floyd’s death at the knee of a police officer and the unrest in the form of protests, looting, unity and division that has followed across the world.
As the fight for change carries on, Fitzgerald’s words are not minced in proclaiming that, “We are not listening to one another. Our winter of delay continues to result in cold hearts and lifeless bodies. The language of the unheard has broken the silence and our willful deafness has led to death and destruction. While our nation has struggled under the weight of a biological pandemic we also find our communities ravaged by the insidious disease of injustice.”
The expansive piece also lends hope that change will come and tomorrow will be better — notions he encourages.
“We must work together to heal this divide and rebuild our communities by committing to let no voice go unheard,” he wrote. “Our first step must be to listen to one another — to sincerely lean in and hear what the person who is different from us is saying.”
One of the greatest receivers of all-time and one of the NFL’s most respected voices has eloquently and passionately offered his thoughts, his hopes and his encouragement to a nation in need.
Read the full New York Times story here.