After trying to decide the best way to make his first public comments after the death of George Floyd, Lynn reached out to his friend LZ Granderson from the Los Angeles Times. This led to a truly enlightening conversation and is a good insight into how his life as an African-American man has shaped his experiences.
This is not an article that is meant to take a side. Part of that is because I don’t think there is a side to take. Police brutality and racism are both disgusting and unacceptable.
While writing this, I’m almost certain that I will receive some backlash for not “sticking to sports”. I cover the Chargers, if their head coach is brave enough to stand up for what he believes in, I’m going to write about it.
I wanted to take some time to dig a little deeper into some of the quotes from his L.A. Times article to try and continue his powerful message.
Why not just release a statement?
“I’ve read some good statements. I read Brian Flores from the Dolphins and I agree 100% with him. I read Doc Rivers’ statement and those guys spoke from the heart. I think statements are needed to bring awareness to the situation. But I want to do something too. I don’t want to just put [a statement] out there because it’s the right thing to do. I want change . . .”
Since the video of George Floyd surfaced, I have seen one major shift from similar videos of the past. Before teams and companies seemed afraid to say something in fear of losing fans, now they feel if they don’t speak out, they will hurt their bottom line.
This is not the way it should be, they should just want to show humanity. Unlike Lynn’s comments, most press releases are hollow and fail to even mention police brutality. Lynn wanted to say something substantive in hopes of change.
You mentioned 1992 and the Rodney King video; how did you feel viewing that?
“I was in shock. There was video evidence of them doing what we always knew they were doing. And then when they didn’t find them guilty despite that evidence it made you sick. It was like, do they really care? Do we really matter? It was not a good feeling and I felt that way all over again watching George Floyd. We haven’t gotten better at all and in some cases, hell, it might have gotten worse.”
This part of the conversation is pretty discouraging because he’s right. I think that this part of the message is especially important for younger people who weren’t around for the Rodney King Riots in 1992. Myself included.
This isn’t a new issue for African-Americans, we are just more able to see it. Lynn has seen these protests before. He has seen the rioting before. I can’t imagine what it feels like to have seen so many people fight to change, only for it to keep happening years later. That is why it is so important to listen to those affected the most.
To have to wonder if your own country cares about you, and your people is incredibly sad. That’s not what America is supposed to stand for. If you want to be patriotic, stand up to those who are trying to take a fellow American’s civil rights away.
It’s sadder to think that it’s getting worse.
“We have so many videos of unarmed black men dying over the last decade and there’s no accountability, there are not consequences, like it’s OK. I just didn’t expect that at this point in time. What we’ve been doing is obviously not working and so we need to do something different. If it’s radical, then it’s radical. And I want to be a part of that.”
This is one of the most concerning parts of this conversation and one of the biggest steps needed for change. As long as the justice system in this country cannot hold officers, clearly abusing power, accountable, we can’t have change.
Just because you are tasked with upholding the law, does not mean you are above it. If the officers involved in George Floyd’s death are not held to the fullest extent of the law, we have failed. We have to raise the bar.
“First, there are so many good officers. I did a first responders commercial a couple of years ago because I respect the first responders so much. They deserve so much more than what they get. They put their lives on the line for us. Two of them helped saved my life after I was hit by that car in 2005. My son’s godfather is a police officer. So I’ve always had a great relationship with the first responders. But I also know it’s a club like a football team and they stick together like a football team. And the good ones get a bad rap because of the bad ones. I would challenge the good ones to speak up and not be silent anymore. That’s what I take away from all of this. George Floyd died with three officers right there who watched him die. It’s time for good officers to speak up and not accept that anymore.”
This was a quote from Lynn that really stood out to me. Many of us find ourselves in a similar situation where we have family or friends that are police officers. Personally, one of my best friends is currently serving the San Diego Police Department. That does not mean that you can’t stand against police brutality and racism.
Being a police officer means being a part of the fraternity, much like a football team. How often in the NFL do you see players call out other players on their team? Until recently with Drew Brees, rarely.
I think with players like Michael Thomas and Malcolm Jenkins speaking out against their own Hall Of Fame quarterback shows progress. They are holding their teammate accountable. In the police force, they need to hold their teammates accountable and take a stand even when it’s uncomfortable.
This entire conversation was started by minorities interacting with police. You ever been pulled over?
“Oh yeah. In fact, I was pulled over not too long ago. The lights come on, I pull over, and the first thing the police officer asked [was] if I was on parole or if I had ever been to jail… before license and registration. Before he told me why he was pulling me over he asked if I was on parole or had I been to jail.”
Almost everyone with a driver’s license has been pulled over at one point or another, but it probably didn’t go like this. I have been pulled over somewhere around six or seven times and have never had this experience.
The thought that this officer would come up and assume that Lynn had been in jail or on parole is extremely offensive. This is why we have to listen because many have never had these assumptions made about them because of their skin color.
Lynn also talked about the fact he had to make sure he talked with his son at ages 16 and 30, about how to deal with police because he’s so scared. That is heartbreaking to think about. But for Lynn, and many others, it is a reality.
How difficult is it to know what [Colin Kaepernick] was trying to fight for and how the NFL responded and treated him, and yet continue to work for the NFL?
“People completely misunderstood Colin and what he was trying to do. People talked about disrespecting the flag . . . the flag covers a lot — patriotism and civil rights and other things. And Colin was speaking out against the injustice and a lot of people didn’t catch on to that because it was happening during the national anthem.”
This was a topic that I wasn’t sure Lynn would tackle, but he seemed very willing to call out Kaepernick’s critics. He admitted how wrongly the NFL handled the situation, and how tough it was to see as one of the few African American Head Coaches.
The most important thing I took away was him pushing back on the many wanting to make Kaepernick’s statement about the flag. The incidents that have happened over the last few weeks only further the quarterback’s stance and what he was fighting for. Instead of attacking the messenger, listen to what his message was.
I am a 27-year old white man, and I have struggled at times to figure out how to show my support. I would encourage everyone that feels strongly about this to speak out, no matter what you look like. I would encourage you to donate to causes that are important to you and peacefully protest with your fellow Americans.
I have seen mostly positive responses by Chargers fans on social media, and that’s encouraging. For those struggling to find a connection point, imagine if that was one of your favorite players in that video. Imagine if Derwin James or Keenan Allen or Melvin Ingram had died that day. Imagine if it was a fellow fan that you tailgate with every Sunday. Imagine if it was a close friend, or loved one. You should care regardless of who it is happening to because this movement is not about one man, it’s about making it so that no African-American has to fear that his life could be unlawfully taken by a police officer.
Lynn was one of the first prominent NFL coaches to come out this strongly and it couldn’t have been easy. He has gone and protested, and has encouraged his players to do the same. That is what role models do. Lynn still has a lot to prove to show that he’s a great coach, but no one can question his leadership.