Los Angeles Chargers running back Justin Jackson is not shy about speaking his mind as it relates to the massive demonstrations across the country and the rest of the world following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died at the hands of police. That should not come as a surprise.
The third-year player who was chosen by the Chargers in the seventh round in the 2018 NFL Draft, more than likely has something to say when it comes to social and political issues. In a published GQ magazine article, Jackson referred to Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden as “extraordinarily weak” and spouts off that he is “no huge fan of the Democratic Party,” while endorsing the socialist and progressive agenda of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Now given the racial uproar that has rippled through the United States and the rest of the world due to Floyd’s death, Jackson had plenty to say about the matter in a Zoom video media call with reporters. Floyd’s death was caught on video for 8 minutes and 46 seconds and has vexed Americans about true accountability when it comes to dealing with police brutality, especially against black people.
Jackson, like many athletes across the sports spectrum, is using his platform to talk about police misconduct and the reverberation effects of those acts.
BEING BLACK IN AMERICA
“I think if you’re a black man in America, you’ve had at least of these experiences,” Jackson said. “And when it comes down to it when you step out of that facility, and someone doesn’t know who you are, which unless you’re Lebron James or someone like that.., we’re all not the tallest or we’re sometimes not the biggest of people, you just look like [a] regular guy.”
“So, we go through this stuff and we all have our own personal stories, but you can tell everyone has been affected by it. And even if people who haven’t been affected by it, hearing these stories, they can empathize with you. They’re like ‘Wow! That’s really messed up!’ And so, I think it’s a real eye-opening experience, not only for myself hearing other people’s stories but for people who haven’t experienced, it to be able to understand kind of what we go through.”
Despite accounting for just 13 percent of the population, black people accounted for 24 percent of those killed by police in 2019. As many as 1,098 people died at the hand of law enforcement in 2019, according to Mapping Police Violence. The statistical database website also records that African Americans lose their lives to police three times more than whites.
In just California alone, 1,186 people were killed by police from 2013-2019. according to Mapping Police Violence. California is also home to cities Santa Ana (No. 3) and Anaheim (No. 4) where blacks are killed at the third and fourth-highest rate in the country. When it comes to accountability, that has been basically non-existent as it relates to law enforcement. From 2013 to 2019, 99 percent of deaths at the hands of police has resulted in no charges towards the officer-involved killings, Mapping Police Violence states from its statistical records.
SAY THEIR NAMES
Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Alton Sterling, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Oscar Grant, and Freddie Gray, are just some of the high-profile casualties in these types of atrocities involving police or law enforcement. It wasn’t until public pressure under the guise of these protests that took place that the four police officers were charged with Floyd’s murder.
Jackson, who is expected to have a more prominent role in the Chargers’ backfield during the 2020 NFL season, alongside Austin Ekeler, now that Melvin Gordon is no longer with the team, said the protests and pushing for that change in law enforcement accountability, have been “very powerful.”
“I actually participated in a few, which was awesome in downtown LA,” Jackson said. “Just to see the large amounts of mostly young people, which I love to see. They’re part of my generation of kind of being at the forefront of this because we want to fight for something different. We don’t want to experience the same things our parents and grandparents experienced, but also just to see the diversity within the movement…it’s going to take a lot of different people; it’s going to take a lot of people being emphatic because they don’t necessarily experience it themselves but they’re allies and supporters, and then the rest of us are just standing up and just saying enough is enough. So it was very powerful to see that and to be able to see the mass group of people marching and trying to demand change.”
So unnerving as it is to witness Floyd uttering his dying breath at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve, the aftermath of continuing protests, calls to eradicate police misconduct have crippled the nation. So much so that the infamous chokehold, which led to the death of Garner in 2014, is now in the death throes of its existence with multiple cities and states deciding to do away with the controversial and deadly maneuver.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
Since the death of Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement has put the onus on just about everyone to do their part in their civic responsibility to speak up and out about the lack of justice surrounding police brutality. It is a long-overdue issue that has been systematically rebuffed while the rope tightens around the black community’s neck as it seeks justice.
This is just one big problem facing his generation, Jackson said. There is a whole laundry list of things he feels needs to be flipped for greater societal change, he said.
“This movement, especially now, especially with Black Lives Matter, it’s not just about police brutality,” said Jackson. “It’s really a wholesale thing. We want more substantive change for our communities. Our communities have been downtrodden for way, way too long. We’ve gone through Republican presidents, Democratic presidents, black presidents, it doesn’t matter. Our communities still seem to stay the same. There’s no jobs, there’s no opportunities. Education’s really bad. There’s no money being put into it.”
“So, we want change, and I think it’s really nice to see people are calling out their local politicians,” Jackson continued. “We’re done with photo ops and pandering and all that B.S. People aren’t falling for that anymore which I think is really awesome and important. I think the young generation has it down, we just need the older generation to come around … I think we’re going to be the change and I think you see that just throughout the country with these protests and everything, they’re all being led by young leaders. I’m really excited to see that and glad to be a part of it.”
TAKING A KNEE
Police violence is the same issue why former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee before football games and tried to get people to recognize, even his employers. All that did was get Kaepernick unofficially blackballed and blacklisted out of the National Football League because of his social justice posture against police brutality.
Kaepernick started his public social justice journey in 2016. Even though Kaepernick found supporters around the cause he was fighting for, he caught plenty of flak and was rebuked by the league, Commissioner Roger Goodell, and fellow NFL stars such as Drew Brees, who misconstrued his peaceful protest as a means to disrespect the national anthem, the U.S. military, and the flag.
“I think what Colin did, as far as him kneeling and everything…the point of the protest was to bring attention to the issue, even though obviously it got skewed because of a multitude of factors like that was the reason, right? That was the motivation behind the protest,” Jackson said. I think now that that light has been shined and that kind of really got exposed, at this point, the best..in my mind the way I’m seeing it, the methodology moving forward is just doing everything that we can with our platform to affect that positive change.”
While Jackson supports what Kaepernick and others did during national anthem protests to shed light on police violence, he believes there are other ways to help get that message across.
“I don’t know if doing that will necessarily have the most net positive outcome, obviously, because of the way it’s such a hyper-partisan issue and people just skew the message really because they don’t want to talk about the real issue,” Jackson stated. “I think that if we just use our platforms like we are now to continue to expose and to continue to advocate for the change we want to see in a society that might be the best method going forward. But we’ll see. I would never, obviously, never look down on anyone choosing to do that because that is your first amendment right, and I support that peaceful protest.”
As it turns out, Kaepernick is on the right side of history. Brees, the NFL, and Goodell…well they clearly appear to have been on the wrong side. The killing of 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks by Atlanta police on June 12 is yet another example of police violence against black men. Brees, Goodell, and the rest of the NFL can no longer play hide-and-seek from this reality.
“I think that once you just step back and you see that his message-one hundred percent-got clouded,” Jackson said. “It really got clouded for insidious reasons, right? The reason that it got clouded was they wanted to make it into something that wasn’t. They didn’t want to talk about the real issue that he was bringing up, which now is at the forefront of our society that everyone is seeing because basically everyone is a journalist and you have a home and you can report something. Everyone is seeing exactly what’s happening and then you have protests that are protesting against police brutality where police are brutalizing peaceful protesters. Like it’s so obvious and in your face and then you add on top that the Coronavirus…it’s not football at that point.”