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D.J. Humphries: NFL Player Protests Unlikely To Stop Until Change Is Enacted

Cardinals left tackle also speaks about coronavirus concerns

T D.J. Humphries hopes to see words turn to action in the push for racial equality.
T D.J. Humphries hopes to see words turn to action in the push for racial equality.

The conversation surrounding racial equality and police brutality in America may be at an all-time high.

D.J. Humphries appreciates that, but it doesn't satisfy him. He's looking for substantive governmental change.

"Are you going to make these changes so (NFL players) don't have to continue to protest?" the Cardinals' left tackle said Monday during a Zoom press conference. "Are you going to change police policies? Are you going to change the way you do things in-house? Are things going to change, because if not – if we're going to keep arresting these police that are killing us, and then they keep getting acquitted, getting off with cold-blooded murder, then things are not changing. We're bringing more attention to it, and more people are seeing how flawed this system is. … But just bringing attention to it, change is not happening yet."

Humphries has noticed the numerous statements and donations made by private companies in support of racial equality, but doesn't think they have gone far enough, either.

"When I know you're pulling the wool over my people's eyes, it's hard for me to sit back and act like things are really changing just because companies are publicly apologizing," Humphries said. "It's cool that you're publicly apologizing and sad, putting up Black Lives Matter posts, but are you going to change your hiring practices? Are your hiring practices going to become equal? Are you going to start hiring people because they're qualified for the job, not because you play golf with their father? … It's going to go one way or the other, because there is more light being shined on it now."

Humphries said he does not expect the Cardinals to intervene if he wants to kneel in protest this season, for which he is grateful. He said he expects the players to make a decision about potential protests as a team. Coach Kliff Kingsbury spoke out in support of his players a week ago.

"It's refreshing to know I play for an organization that will support my decision, whichever way we decide to go," Humphries said. "Our voices are not going to be silenced."

The NFL has done an about-face on the issue, with Commissioner Roger Goodell recently acknowledging the league was wrong to discourage players from peacefully protesting. Humphries said he would have liked to hear Goodell mention Colin Kaepernick's name specifically, given that the former 49ers quarterback was at the forefront of NFL protests.

While Humphries believes there is plenty of work to be done in the push for equality, he's been impressed by the level of understanding in the offensive line room. He said guard Justin Pugh, who is white, recently asked about Humphries' experience with police officers to better understand his perspective.

"If the world was like the O-Line room, it would be so much kumbaya," Humphries said.

While race relations usurped the coronavirus as the dominant news story in recent weeks, the latter remains of great concern as training camp gets closer and the rate of cases in Arizona grows.

There was a report on Monday that players on the Cowboys and Texans tested positive for COVID-19, including running back Ezekiel Elliott. Humphries said players have different levels of concern about playing amid the pandemic.

"Some guys are more cautious," Humphries said. "My wife is a diabetic, so I have to be very cautious, because she is high-risk. I have to take things into account like that. Some guys live with their elderly mother, so they have to take those things into account. Some guys are single guys, and it's just them and the dog at home, so they're ready to play ball."

Humphries said he's not concerned about his own personal safety because he takes a risk every time he steps on the field, although he allowed that his point of view may be "ignorant."

"I run my face into 300-pound men on a daily basis," Humphries said. "That's how I rationalize things."

Humphries is holed up in Phoenix, waiting to hear direction from the NFL about the next step in the process.

He needs no such guidance when it comes to race relations. Humphries doesn't hold it against people if they were indoctrinated into prejudice, but hopes recent events will invite further dialogue and action.

"Just like I have scars, everyone else has scars," Humphries said. "Maybe you were taught hate by someone who was supposed to teach you something different. If you're willing to learn something differently, I'm willing to teach you that."

The top photos from inside the Cardinals locker room before and after games last season.

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