The calls for social justice is just not an NBA thing. NFL teams are feeling the same angst and anxiety about all of the violence being heaped upon Black Americans and people of color by police. The Los Angeles Rams are no exception.
In the mind of veteran wide receiver Robert Woods, the best weapon to counter all of the injustices being done is to vote.
“You’ve got to be able to vote,” Woods said. “It’s so political now, this game, first you get into it, you want to stay away from race, politics and religion. But now, that’s all that we’re talking about. You’ve got to be involved. It’s not just speaking, it’s actually changing, changing laws, getting things implemented. You see what happened with Breonna Taylor – the cops, I feel like they’re murderers and they’re still out on the street. Change needs to happen. It comes down to laws and policies that are allowing these people to still be free. I think if we actually vote and make these changes, get these things implemented, I think justice will be served; people will be held accountable. The punishment will be a lot more serious and a lot more people will be thinking about their actions and being able to do correct and do right.”
According to the Pew Research Center, 122 million people turned out for the 2018 midterm election. Voter turnout among Black Americans rose nearly 11 percent (10.8 percent) from 2014. Overall, 54 percent of Black Americans voted in the midterm election two years ago. Another item to note is that Latinos and Asian-Americans made up 25 percent of all voters in 2018, a rise of four percentage points from 2014.
Woods, in his fourth season with the Rams and eighth season playing in the NFL, believes in the process of voting so much he’s willing to go out and register people himself.
“I want to personally go out, like I said, get people registered to vote if they’re not,” Woods said. “Making sure people are out voting. People’s voices are heard. I think this is a big, big political year. You see this is bigger than sports, it’s bigger than football. This is all about being a human being and being respectful to everybody.”
Voting is just one part of the social justice messaging that players are feeling these days. The matter of police reform and accountability is hot on the to get fix list. That’s because of the high-profile deadly encounters with police by Black Americans this year has resonated through the racial injustice prism.
From the videotaped execution of George Floyd to the silence-in-waiting killing of emergency medical technician Breonna Taylor to the recent shooting of Jacob Blake, America has been on fire in protest over police misconduct since March.
Taylor was killed by police executing a no-knock warrant at her apartment. The 26-year-old Taylor was hit eight times by bullets on March 13 and died on her hallway floor.
Floyd died May 25 when a former Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, In the throes of his last breath, which was caught on a cellphone video, Floyd uttered: “I can’t breathe.” The shooting of Rayshard Brooks and now the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin has America on the edge of revolt.
When the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks boycotted their playoff game against the Orlando Magic that set off a chain reaction other sports leagues canceled games and practices in wake of the shooting of Blake, who was shot seven times in the back at point-blank range. Rams cornerback Troy Hill appreciates the stance Milwaukee players took in letting the world know where they stood.
“I think that’s big for what’s going on in the world today,” Hill said. “With everything that’s happening and the way they just keep killing us. I think that’s a big thing. I think it’s real special that they was able to unite as a collective group and all decide together that they was going to boycott today. So, I think that was a good thing, a good stance. I know we need a lot more that’s going to happen in order to make some changes.”
Running back Malcolm Brown echoes Hill’s thoughts on the Bucks’ boycott, supporting Milwaukee’s players for putting in place action to back up their social justice messaging.
“I’ve got to agree with those guys,” Brown said. “That’s their organization, that’s their team. All the teams that are doing it, they felt like they needed to take a stand and I would be right there with them. It’s an unfortunate situation, man. That whole thing, the (expletive) is sick. I just think it boils down to right and wrong at the end of the day. Forget race, religion, politics, forget all that nonsense. It comes down to right and wrong. I feel like you’re grown and you know what right and what wrong is. It’s as simple as that. I don’t think it really needs any crazy explanations anymore, we’ve been explaining it for a while. It just needed to take some type of action, and what those guys did, I salute to them. Just for us, we’ve just definitely got to think of ways on our own to contribute and do what we can to make this whole situation better.”
One way for the situation to get better is to have more people that look like the team’s starting quarterback Jared Goff be more vocal and speak out on the injustices that they see. It cannot just be a Black or people of color thing to fix this problem, Goff said.
“Yeah. I think, like I mentioned in the summer, I do feel more of a responsibility to be outspoken, to not sit back because forever white people have sat back, for the most part, and just allowed it to happen or kind of turned a blind eye,” said Goff. “As a leader of a team, as a leader of a community, as a leader of, you know, arguably a city, you want to be saying the right thing and doing the right thing and this is important to me. It’s something that is never going to stop, you always want to be fighting, you always want to be moving in the right direction. But I think to answer your question, yes. I think as someone that is not of color and someone that is in a position of leadership, it’s important to speak up and be outspoken.”