The athlete said it's "staggering" to see racism and police brutality "happen right in front of our faces"

By Benjamin VanHoose
June 04, 2020 01:59 PM
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Russell Wilson
| Credit: Allen Berezovsky/Getty

Russell Wilson is sharing his experiences with racism to shed light on prejudice that's still prevalent today.

On Wednesday, the Seattle Seahawks quarterback, 31, spoke with reporters about the recent killing of George Floyd, which sparked outrage across the world as protesters called for justice and an end to police brutality.

During the press briefing, Wilson recalled one instance in which he faced racism shortly after reaching widespread fame from the team's 2014 Super Bowl win.

The NFL star said he was at a California restaurant, waiting in line when a white man told him, "That's not for you."

"And I said, 'Excuse me?' I thought he was joking at first," Wilson said, according to ESPN. "My back was kind of turned. I had just come off a Super Bowl and everything else, so if somebody is talking to me that way, you think about [a different] circumstance and how people talk to you."

"In that moment," he continued, "I really went back to being young and not putting my hands in my pocket and that experience. That was a heavy moment for me right there. I was like, 'Man, this is really still real, and I'm on the West coast. This is really real right now.' That really pained my heart."

Wilson said he referred back to what his father taught him growing up, raising him to deescalate situations.

"In the midst of that, what I understood was, and [what] my dad always taught me was, to not lash back out in that moment because then it becomes something that's hard to deal with," said Wilson.

Russell Wilson celebrates after defeating the Denver Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2, 2014.
| Credit: Rob Carr/Getty

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"So I said, 'Excuse me, sir, but I don't appreciate you speaking to me that way.' He just kind of walked off," he recalled. "But in that little glimpse, even though it didn't turn into something, what if it did? That's the sad part about this, what we're talking about."

Addressing issues of police brutality and racism, Wilson said becoming a father made the issues even more pressing and urgent. The NFL star shares stepson Future Zahir, 6, and daughter Sienna Princess, 3, with wife Ciara. They're also currently expecting a son.

"The reality is that me as a black person, people are getting murdered on the street, people are getting shot down, and the understanding that it's not like that for every other race," said Wilson. "... I think about my stepson, I think about my daughter, I think about our new baby boy on the way, and it's staggering to watch these things happen right in front of our faces, so I have a heavy heart right now."

"You understand fully — especially now just turning 31 and having two kids and a third one on the way — you really understand the significance of what [racism] means," Wilson said.

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In a message to followers on Instagram on Monday, Wilson wrote: "We need true leadership. We need justice. We need equality."

"I ask, what do you really want? Do you want your kids to go to school without fear? Do you want your grandchildren to have a dream?" he wrote. "I want my kids and your kids to have a dream they can earn—earn with hard work, love and compassion for others. However, I hope and pray their dreams and opportunities aren't blocked by the fears and pain caused by racism."

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.