Nagy, Bears' leaders have more than football on their minds right now

  • Daily Herald File PhotoBears defensive end Akiem Hicks jokes with teammates during a game in 2016. Hicks, coach Matt Nagy and other Bears addressed racism, police brutality and protests on Wednesday.

    Daily Herald File PhotoBears defensive end Akiem Hicks jokes with teammates during a game in 2016. Hicks, coach Matt Nagy and other Bears addressed racism, police brutality and protests on Wednesday.

 
 
Updated 6/3/2020 10:26 PM

The "stick to sports" folks are just going to have to go somewhere else today.

I spent almost 2½ hours on a Zoom call on Wednesday with fellow members of the Chicago media, three black Chicago Bears players and their white head coach.

 

I knew getting ready for the day it would be different. But it never occurred to me that less than 10 minutes of our time together would be spent talking football, and we'd spend even less time talking about the coronavirus.

America is broken right now. Almost 350 years of pain and anguish felt almost exclusively by our black, brown and other minority brothers and sisters is pouring out on our streets.

Allen Robinson, head coach Matt Nagy, Akiem Hicks and Danny Trevathan took turns sharing with us with incredible eloquence and a deep understanding what it really is to know that pain, and the hope that we can all one day, some day, be better.

Today well over 70 percent of NFL players are black, but a solid majority of quarterbacks are white and only four of the 32 head coaches are minorities.

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But when asked what his conversations this week with his white teammates and coaches have been like, Bears wide receiver Robinson said, "They've actually been really good. Really good!

"Enlightening on, them wanting to gain more knowledge of certain things that's going on, them also acknowledging what's going on.

"I think the biggest thing for me is just challenging everybody -- African-American, other ethnicities, white, no matter what it is.

"If you're walking down the street and you see something that isn't right happening, to let your voice be known that that isn't right," Robinson said.

"I think if we do that, as people, I think that everything will start to become a better place and just start to naturally become better."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Monday, Nagy called a team meeting to as he said, "really spend our allotted two hours to listen and to let our players know how much I and we support them.

"And then let them feel our love. That starts by listening. We did that.

"I can just say this: when the two hours ended and I'm sure we could have gone a lot longer, we were all very emotionally drained, in a good way."

A bit later Nagy added, "You just feel it and you understand the significance of love.

"That word does not get used enough in this world. Love. I'm going to make it my own mission to use it more, to show it more.

"In our world of the NFL, big tough guys, it's just unconditional and it goes a long way," Nagy said. "At the end of that meeting on Monday, I felt that there was love in that room."

I don't pretend to know defensive linebacker Akiem Hicks well, but I know he is one of the brighter and most well-spoken players in the game.

Asked to share with an almost exclusively white group of reporters who couldn't possibly know what it's like to grow up black in America, Hicks said "It is a really interesting thing to be on this call, and as I swipe though, I don't see once face that looks like mine.

"But what I do see are a lot of people I've had interactions with on a daily basis that have treated me with respect, have been honest, have worked with me on a lot of things I've done over my four years here.

"And so what I'll say is this: Racism doesn't exist in every situation.

"Have I experienced it or encountered it in my 30 years on this planet? A lot of times.

"But I can't live my life or do my job if the first thing on my mind is, 'This person doesn't like me because of the color of my skin.'

"Now do I experience it? Do I ever feel it? Yes.

"But I have to interact with every single one of you and to have that mindset it wouldn't do me any justice."

My epiphany moment came late in the day from linebacker Trevathan.

He shared this story about growing up with his mom.

"My mom, used to kiss me on the head every morning before I would leave, and back then I hated it because I didn't know what was going on in the bigger picture of things.

"I was just focusing on her kissing me in front of my friends, my peers and 'wipe that off Ma, get out of here.' But now I see the reason behind it.

"She feared that I would never come back home to her. That's terrifying, as a person, as a human. So now I have to instill that in my daughters, both of them.

"No matter how young, those are real-life topics we need to discuss and I have to talk to them about that."

As I listened, I realized I was crying.

My wife and I have been blessed with five kids and five more grandchildren, and never for one second have we feared they might be harmed merely because of the color of their skin.

That is the reality of being black in America today.

There are countless stories of triumph in the 100-year history of the Chicago Bears, but never have they been more impressive or more important than their leaders were today.

Twitter: @Hub_Arkush

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