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Larry Fitzgerald Speaks On Racism, Protests, 'Systemic Problem' In America

Cardinals wide receiver pens first-person essay in New York Times

Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald wrote the country "must hear the desperate voice of protest that is calling out for justice."
Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald wrote the country "must hear the desperate voice of protest that is calling out for justice."

Larry Fitzgerald's first line is a simple nod to his hometown.

"The city of Minneapolis taught me about love," the Cardinals' wide receiver wrote.

It is the beginning of Fitzgerald's first public words about the recent upheaval the United States -- and the world -- has undergone over the past couple of weeks, sparked by the killing of George Floyd while he was in the custody of the Minneapolis police department.

"The events of the last several days have turned Minneapolis, and our nation, upside down," Fitzgerald wrote. "Injustice, death, destruction, pain, violence, protests and riots have made it clear -- we as a nation are not OK. We are not healthy. The violent death of George Floyd in police custody is yet another example of a systemic problem we have yet to solve. A cancer we are failing to cut out. People and communities are suffering, lives are being lost and futures are being destroyed.

"Growing up, I never personally experienced harassment from the police, but I knew there were issues and I saw situations where people of color were not given the same benefit of the doubt and the same respect that was afforded to others.

"When will this terrible cycle end?"

Many had been waiting to see what Fitzgerald, who will be 37 in August and is going into his 17th season, would have to say on the subject. Fitzgerald's many future interests in the business world have led him into relationships with multiple NFL owners and his voice on these issues matters.

The subsequent protests and support given to the anti-racism movement has been strong in the NFL, where players -- Patrick Peterson and DeAndre Hopkins among them -- last week released a powerful video insisting the NFL take stronger action in supporting anti-racism and the right to peacefully protest. The NFL, through a video by commissioner Roger Goodell, said they would do just that.

"We are not listening to one another," Fitzgerald writes. "Our winter of delay continues to result in cold hearts and lifeless bodies."

"People of color across this nation are screaming to be heard," Fitzgerald adds. "Stop killing our sons and daughters. Stop terrorizing our communities. Give us justice. ... The screams of disrespected voices are ringing out in our nation right now. We must never condone violent riots that take lives and destroy futures but we must also hear the desperate voice of protest that is calling out for justice."

He notes that people of color are "asking for radical, meaningful change that eliminates injustice in the legal system, roots out systemic racism in America society, and where authority protects rather than threatens."

But Fitzgerald also said other voices must still be heard, because "(m)onologues rarely result in understanding."

Fitzgerald loves his hometown. He has a house there, splitting time between there and Arizona during the year. He is an important and contributing member of the community. It is not a surprise he wanted to see it before speaking.

Fitzgerald, the one-time NFL Man of the Year, closes the article by mentioning Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery -- the three black people wrongfully killed recently because of racism or police misconduct.

"George Floyd, in your final gasps for breath, we hear you.

"Breonna Taylor, in your besieged home, we hear you.

"Ahmaud Arbery, as your footsteps pounded the ground, running for your life, we hear you.

"Victims of violence, poverty and injustice, we hear you.

"Communities and lives torn apart by riots, we hear you.

"People of privilege learning a better way, we hear you.

"Mothers and fathers of every race doing the best you can to teach your children to love and not hate, we hear you.

"May God give us all ears to hear so that the cries of the unheard are never again compelled to scream in desperation."