Champ Bailey uses the HOF platform to deliver a message on race

JAIME C. HARRIS | 8/8/2019, 1:33 p.m.
Champ Bailey delivered a powerful message.
Champ Bailey delivered a powerful speech at his Hall of Fame induction ceremony Saturday Contributed

Champ Bailey delivered a powerful message.

The newly minted Pro Football Hall of Famer spoke to this nation about racial fears and division on Saturday in the midst of the 250th and 251st mass shootings in the United States this year alone.

In the aftermath of the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio this past weekend, that at the time this publication went to press had claimed the lives of 31 men, woman and children and left upwards of 50 people seriously wounded, the crisis of the sick and until proven otherwise incurable racial ills that plague this country was tragically illuminated.

The disease of racial hatred is zealously and hatefully stoked by Donald Trump, who bears all the traits and aspirations of an authoritarian fascist. He has encouraged law enforcement officers to use abusive tactics on suspects, gave a troubling response when one of his supporters at a recent rally he held in Florida suggested immigrants attempting to cross the U.S. Southern border be shot, and urged four congresswoman of color to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” despite three of them being born in the United States.

While countless moral, progressive and compassionate white people have loudly opposed Tump’s evil, racist rhetoric, far too many have remained silently complicit. Professional athletes have as much influence on society as any demographic in this country. Their collective words and actions are followed on social media by hundreds of millions of impressionable youth and adults worldwide.

Yet for every Chris Long, the 34-year-old white former NFL defensive lineman who has contributed a significant amount of his time and money to the cause of social justice, and stood at the forefront of the call for racial healing after the infamous clash between white supremacists and those opposing them led to the murder of 32-year Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia—where Long attend high school and college—in August of 2017, there is a Curt Schilling, the retired Major League Baseball pitcher who subscribes to Trump’s political and social ideology.

During his induction speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio this past Saturday, roughly 200 miles from Dayton, the 41-year-old Bailey, who played in the NFL from 1999 to 2013, mostly for the Denver Broncos, urged his white brethren to hear, understand and act on the calls of Black men in America, in addition to offering stern advice to the latter.

“The first thing people see when they look at me is not a Pro Football Hall of Famer, or a husband, or a father. They view me, first, as a Black man,” said Bailey. “So on behalf of all the Black men that I mentioned tonight, and many more out there, who have had most of the same experiences I’ve had in my lifetime, we say this to all of our white friends.

“When we tell you about our fears, please listen. When we tell you we’re afraid for our kids, please listen. When we tell you there are many challenges we face because of the color of our skin, please listen. And please, do not get caught up in how the message is delivered.

“We all understand that if we can’t get our friends to listen, then no one will. And to my Black brothers, if you do not have anything positive to say about our social challenges, please keep your mouths shut.”